How to Detect Hidden Cameras

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How to Detect Hidden Cameras

With their small size and ubiquitous use, we’ve become quite accostomed to commercial home-monitoring camera systems — so much so that they tend to fade into their settings, even when prominently placed up front and center. It’s an extension of camera-equipped-everything maneuvering us to take the constant recording of our lives for granted.

That said, it’s not OK to covertly record someone else without their permission or awareness. Yet, a quick search online reveals a chilling array of devices that are clearly designed for this type of endeavor — devices that make GoPros and babycams look as large and conspicuous as a flashing neon sign in Las Vegas.

Some discreet hidden camera gadgets
that you can purchase:

  • Photo frame camera
  • LED bulb camera
  • Wristwatch camera
  • Pen camera
  • Eyeglasses camera
  • Alarm clock camera
  • Smoke detector camera
  • Clothes hook camera
  • Desk lamp camera
  • Alarm clock camera
  • Wall clock camera
  • Charging dock camera
  • Exit sign camera
  • Cable modem camera
  • Screw head camera
  • USB charger and USB cable cameras

You don’t have to access the dark web to get these surveillance devices — they’re all for sale on Amazon, most with Prime shipping. We live in weird times, indeed.

So what can you do to find these potential spying eyes? It can be a challenging task, but there are a few options.


Many cameras have an infrared LED bulb on them to illuminate a room outside of the visible light spectrum. These LEDs can emit a faint reddish glow in low- or no-light conditions — if you notice an odd glow, it might be coming from a hidden camera. A phone camera will also show an active IR LED glowing purple, as mentioned in “Magic Touch Frame” on page 33.

If you want to be more active in finding IR emissions, use your own IR-capable monitoring camera (buy a cheap USB version online) to scan the room to look for otherwise invisible shining sources. They should show up like a spotlight.


Some cell phones will emit a crackling sound when exposed to electromagnetic signals like those that surveillance cameras can emit. Move your phone around the suspected area of a hidden electronic device to check for this telltale interference.


You can do this with smartphone apps or pricier hidden camera-detecting devices. The method works by having your phone’s flash illuminate a space as you pan around; it looks for glints of light that can reflect off a camera’s lens, even covertly placed ones.


Wireless cameras transmit their signal in some manner, often via radio waves. Dedicated camera-detection tools look for these signals to help pinpoint an apparatus’ presence.

If you do encounter an illicit device, the experts suggest disabling it and notifying the authorities. Be safe!


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Mike Senese

Mike Senese is a content producer with a focus on technology, science, and engineering. He served as Executive Editor of Make: magazine for nearly a decade, and previously was a senior editor at Wired. Mike has also starred in engineering and science shows for Discovery Channel, including Punkin Chunkin, How Stuff Works, and Catch It Keep It.

An avid maker, Mike spends his spare time tinkering with electronics, fixing cars, and attempting to cook the perfect pizza. You might spot him at his local skatepark in the SF Bay Area.

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