Everything from baby monitors to microphones in your car can record video, but they are typically only saved locally to your phone or in a secure cloud server. That can be a bit of a time-consuming strategy. Can you feel smug about that now? No? Good. It’s apparently your fault.

In a paper published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the security firm Hold Security showed how a simple iPhone camera can be used to record conversations secretly and completely undetected. Gizmodo reports that the experiment included the account of one man “who had access to a relatively wide variety of objects and places where he visited regularly,” and that any data downloaded from the device would have been in plain view to anyone that could find the app.

Hold Security representative Colin Yeo explained to TechCrunch that the company uses facial recognition to identify a person as soon as he or she walks by the camera. Then, he said, a “hot pixel sensor” captures a random series of frames, which are then examined in an analysis program and used to identify the person. “So, the question is, if this can be used to identify someone while they are in a room that’s a location that you know to be public — such as a hotel room — how could it be used to identify someone if you weren’t in the room?” Yeo said.

The researchers then found it very difficult to get their findings published, “despite having completed a feasibility study complete with a preliminary investigative report.” In October, the White House explained to the Electronic Frontier Foundation that it would comply with a warrant for the security of its recordings, and “to protect agency operations from unauthorized disclosure by any end user of any recording device.” But remember that backdoor that the government is constantly saying doesn’t exist? Don’t go around telling strangers that in order to work out how to get a record of them from a doorbell camera. They can spy on you with things that aren’t hidden in plain sight.


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