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Pinhole Cameras For Business And Home Security: When Are They Appropriate?security video and audio

In science, it’s called the “Hawthorne effect“; it describes the changes people make to their behavior based on the knowledge that they are being observed. The Hawthorne effect is in play the second somebody sees a video camera mounted to the wall or ceiling. In terms of business security, this can be a good thing, serving as a deterrent to theft and other forms of crime. It can likewise serve a similar function in home security.

There are security situations where it can prevent you from obtaining vital information, however. In a business setting, the issue might be employee theft or vandalism by unknown parties. At home, you might want to determine if a babysitter is being abusive or neglectful with a “nanny cam”, or if contractors are stealing or rifling through personal materials.

In situations where you are seeking to gather incriminating evidence without alerting the offending party to your observations, a pinhole camera is an indispensable tool. These cameras are available in sizes smaller than a square inch. They are designed to be fitted to all manner of everyday objects, and many come pre-fitted to objects such as clocks, speakers or light switches.

Important Legal Considerations

An important point of note before considering a pinhole camera is to check local laws regarding surreptitious video recording. Most of these cameras ship with no ability to record audio, as recording of audio without the other party’s knowledge or consent is widely illegal under state laws. Some states forbid audio recording without the consent of all parties involved, but it is legal if the conversation is recorded in a public place and is at a volume that others can unintentionally hear it.

Surreptitious video recording for security purposes is generally legal, so long as it is not used to capture people undressing, using the bathroom or engaging in sexual activity. Certain types of businesses naturally face further privacy restrictions, such as places of lodging not being allowed to place hidden cameras in guest rooms. Again, it is important to check state and local laws, as they do differ somewhat.

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Technical Details

Pinhole cameras usually don’t contain their own internal memory for storing video, unless they come in some sort of prefabricated setup inside of an object (such as the clocks or speakers mentioned above). Most frequently, they wirelessly transmit data to a base station that records to an SD card.

To conserve battery life, some will offer the feature of only activating when they detect motion. This feature does somewhat restrict how they can be set up, however. An ideal solution for a camera with motion detection is to hide it in an actual motion detector, such as the sensors on light switches that automatically turn lights on or off based on activity in the room.

Other optional features on higher-end models include automatic adjustments to ambient light settings, infrared illumination and recording to different types of video formats.

Camera Placement

A variety of different lens types are available, but generally speaking, these cameras are designed with a wide angle lens to capture as broad of a viewing area as possible. The best placement is therefore usually a minimum of a few feet back from the area you are attempting to videotape.

Other Uses For Pinhole Cameras

It’s possible for pinhole cameras to be worn on the body. This is how investigative journalists, law enforcement and even mystery shoppers obtain video covertly. Again, it is important to remember while this is usually legal in areas where there is not an established expectation of privacy, surreptitious audio recording is prohibited by law in many states.

Another professional application is to use a flexible snake-style camera with infrared illumination to get into tight spaces. Such cameras are used by pest control technicians and tradesmen of all sorts who perform repairs. They are particularly helpful in diagnosing automotive problems without having to disassemble a vehicle.

Pinhole cameras have many valid security applications both in the home and in business settings, but it is extremely important to review your local surreptitious recording laws before deploying them.