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.

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There is a webcam app for my ipod that I use and One day while checking out store back east I started zooming in and around I was able to go right on a desk where someone was signing a contract to make a large purchase, and by large I mean more than 50 grand. I was able to actully zoom in on the contract the person was signing and snap a picture. I could read the whole thing and if I were of the charachter to do so I could have very easily stolen this poor guys identity. Instead I called that store and told them the manager gave me an email account where I could send her the picture I had taken. They were very appreciative and recitified the sittuation very quickly.

As far as the people who who put up the local web cams being suprised that creeps would find it and exploit it, HELLOOOOO have you ever been online before?

I hope the women who were taken advantage of this way can take solace that it was proababl just some junior high kids being, well, jr high high kids.

when I said “I were of the charachter to do so I could have very easily stolen this poor guys identity.”

Im sorry I didnt mean to pat myself on the back and say wow Im of such great guy for not stealing this guys identity, by not doing so I only met a minimum standard of decency

Several years ago, KSBY did an experiment.

They “planted” a lost wallet downtown SLO to see if people were honest.

They vedio people finding the wallet from a high and blind (zoom) vantage point.

At that time, they reported people finding the wallet were honest.

It was not reported whether there was any money in the wallet.

With a few dollars, someone may or may not return the wallet.

With hundreds of dollars, someone may have second thoughts.

I am sure the experiment was controlled with little money.

It all depends on who does what with the technology.

The good of a Invisible recorder

Exposes & Identifies

Fraud, Crime, Abuse, Brutality, Torture, Lies.

The Bad of a Invisible recorder

Entrapment, Extortion, Blackmail, Offends/ Embarrass, Exploits, Infringe.

The Usefulness of a Visible Recorder

Deterrent to crime and lies, Necessary Supervision.

Hey Folks:

This article gave me a thought. Why don’t we ask the Board of Supervisors to install a webcam on top of the Assessors office so we citizens can make sure Tom Bordonaro shows up for work.

I took control of that web cam for a few minutes on Saturday night. I was curious to see exactly how intrusive it was. I can assure you that none of you would like the fact that someone can zoom up your nose or at your fork as you place it in your mouth while your dining! There was someone else (maybe a few people) who were also on line at the web cam and they kept taking control away from me. Of course I could see exactly what they were looking at and sure enough, it was at a woman’s large breast’s, they kept zooming down her cleavage. I have to admit that I was laughing about it, but seriously It’s one thing to know that there is a possible camera that might capture you at a distance and it’s another thing to think that someone is zooming in on your crotch as you cross your legs, blow your nose, pick your teeth or worse. These are things that we generally wait for an opportune moment to act upon. The fact is that while we all are aware that there are cams out there, it’s another thing to consider just how close they might be, uncomfortably close, too close, WAY TOO CLOSE.

There should be some form of regulation to ensure public safety (there are several reports of webcams being used to ‘case’ a robbery location, for example) or rules / standards to prevent abuse of the technology. Something akin to a permit process would be appropriate when webcams are deployed in public venues.

In Great Britain, there is a huge pushback by the citizenry of London over the excessive use of webcams, installed to ‘monitor’ public activities by police. The ‘cams can be found everywhere, and many feel its an invasion of privacy.

Webcams indeed can be used to ‘protect’ a business, but they can also be used to take advantage of the business or its patrons, with the anonymity of the internet protecting the criminal. Mostly webcams are just tools to assist in identification of a criminal after the crime has already been committed, so it really isn’t protection; its called ‘surveillance’. So if you want to use a camera to keep an eye on your property, use a time-lapse recorder, don’t plug ’em into the web for all to see.

Those are CCTV cameras, not webcams.

This is a rather silly thing to be “horrified” about. It’s not like this is an x-ray camera that sees through clothing. You can see no more than someone else eating at the restaurant or someone on the beach with a pair of binoculars could see. Everyone is free to look where they want. If you don’t want people to look down your low cut top, then don’t wear such revealing clothing out in public or at a restaurant! I doubt that anyone who was modestly dressed would have a problem with this.

The restaurant owners made a mistake to allow the level of control of the camera that they did. Cal Poly made this mistake too when they installed the web camera for the Poly Canyon Village.dorm. They let it zoom too far in. I blogged about the camera a few years ago and they restricted the zoom soon after. That camera is no longer in operation but they do have other cameras that use the same software that Custom House is using but restrict the zoom on it


Most tourist cameras don’t allow control and is a set shot and the one’s that do, it’s really obvious. It’s a feature of the particular camera that they chose to install. Also, I’m not sure of the statement of a “growing number of outdoor web cameras…”. From what I’ve seen, outdoor web cameras peeked around 2004 and a majority of those no longer exist today.

Don’t see how this has any connection to a school-spying lawsuit.

You can not expect privacy in a public setting, that’s why it’s called PUBLIC.

This is not new, there are remote controlled webcams literally all over the world.

The issue with the school laptops is that the program the school used to capture images and screenshots on school owned equipment was secret and was activated in the users homes where privacy can be expected, big difference.

Of course the fix is easy, simply turn the remote control feature off and aim it at the beach.

I agree. They are all over. Heck you can find them on cruise ships. The difference is (or at least all the ones I have seen) is that they are fixed point and no control from user. Which is fine. I like them for looking at cruise ship before I go on a cruise or when they had the potential sunami in Hawaii a couple months back you could use cameras on some resorts point towards the ocean to see what the activity was. Unfornately as in most things in life you always have a few a**holes that can mess up something that could be useful.

———————Very interesting————-Check out the videos of Caltrans on YOUTUBE shoveling contaminated storm water and debris into the Oceano Communities storm water drainage system!

Hopfuly we will not lose our rights to protect our homes and business with outdoor video cameras~