Avila Beach web cam voyeurism
April 20, 2010
A couple of restaurants in Avila Beach thought it was a good way to promote themselves. They positioned a video camera outdoors last winter so website visitors could check out live action of the waves, the weather and maybe decide to visit the beach eateries.
But this idea has turned into a nightmare for the Custom House and Mister Rick’s in Avila Beach.
CalCoastNews has learned that an unknown number of persons, apparently doing their work at computers, surreptitiously took control of one web camera outside of the two restaurants in recent weeks to zoom in on unsuspecting women and focus on women’s breasts or their crotch areas.
Restaurant employers and their bosses were unaware of this form of voyeurism until a CalCoastNews reporter asked about it. They were horrified by what they saw and promised to fix the situation.
On a recent Sunday, this reporter saw the camera zoom in on about a dozen unsuspecting women dining outside with the lens focused on their breasts.
“We never dreamed members of the community would use it for this purpose,” said Anji Roeset, the director of restaurant operations for the two establishments. “We will install measures so that it can’t be used in that manner again.”
While web cameras are lawfully used by authorities to catch traffic violators or by businesses to provide security, it is not generally known that some of these cameras can be controlled remotely from computers anywhere in the world. All one apparently needs to do this is to mouse over the remote access and take control.
A strange school-spying lawsuit in Pennsylvania has caused some to question the lack of laws protecting one’s privacy in areas where most take it for granted, such as their homes and bedrooms. The Lower Merion School District officials loaned students computers mounted with web cams without telling the student or their parents they were keeping watch.
A lawsuit filed by parents of a sophomore claims that the web cams took photos of underage students in their homes, some in their beds and others partially dressed.
The wired world is a growing phenomenon with no federal regulations to protect people from unknowingly being video taped and viewed on the web by others while not only outdoors, but also in more private settings.
Federal wiretap laws prohibit the recording of conversations or intercepting e-mails but do not bar spying done through photography and video in private settings.
Sen. Arlen Specter, D-Pa., does not believe current wiretap laws do enough to protect the public’s privacy. He is proposing that the federal wiretap statute be amended to prohibit visual spying in private settings.
However, Specter’s proposed amendment may have no effect on the growing number of outdoor web cams that are being mounted in public areas.