How to spot and disable cameras.
Cameras come in all shapes and sizes. There are larger ones that look like cameras, which are easy to spot. Smaller cameras, such as the Nest Dropcam, can slip behind furnishings, decorations or vents. Then there are spy cameras that hide in everyday objects like alarm clocks, stuffed animals or picture frames.
A simple way to spot most types of cameras is to look for the lens reflection. This requires turning off the lights and slowly scanning the room with a flashlight, or laser pointer, looking for bright reflections. It works even better if you’re looking through something like an empty roll of toilet paper because it narrows your focus. Be sure to scan the room from multiple spots so you don’t miss a camera pointed only at certain places.
You should also do a close visual inspection of the vents, as well as any holes or gaps in the walls or ceilings. Fortunately, for a camera to see you, you have to be able to see it as well, so it can’t be entirely hidden.
There are gadgets on the market that are geared specifically toward lens detection, like the Brickhouse Security Mini Hidden Camera Detector. It’s $100 and it uses flashing red LEDs for better detection. Brickhouse makes other gadgets that use lasers instead of LEDs and have other fancy features, but those get up into the $500 range and are mainly meant for law enforcement.
In addition to lens detection, you can also get an RF detector. This can pick up wireless cameras within 10 feet or so. Some of the expensive ones have screens to show you what the camera is seeing. Unfortunately, RF detectors aren’t great for wired or record-only cameras. For those, you’ll need to stick with the lens reflection method.
You can find RF detectors for under $30, but the quality is suspect. Brickhouse makes a basic model that sells for $70. It also has a model for $140 that combines an RF detector with a lens-reflection detector.
If you can connect to the rental’s wireless network, a free program like Wireless Network Watcher shows what gadgets are connected. You might be able to spot connected cameras. Just be aware that the owner might have put the cameras on a second network, or they could be wired or record-only types.
If the rental property is controlled by a home automation system, it’s fairly easy to find cameras. Open the system controller menu and look for anything mentioning cameras. Accordingly, scan the TV channels for anything suspicious.
There are hardware jammers that block Wi-Fi entirely. Using these, you could essentially take any and all Internet-enabled cameras offline. But jammers are illegal in the U.S.
What to do if you find a camera
If the presence of indoor surveillance cameras was not disclosed to you, the answer is simple: Pick up the phone and call the police. Tell them you have direct evidence that your landlord, or Airbnb host, is spying on you, without your knowledge or permission, inside your rental home. Use this exact phrase.
While you’re waiting for police to arrive, document the situation with video and photos on your smartphone. If you are travelling with others, ask them to be witnesses. Remind them they were about to be victimized, too.
Once you have your police report, contact the rental site.
Make no mistake. Stumbling over surveillance cameras isn’t just creepy. This is a big deal involving your basic constitutional rights and the law.