"The walls have ears" is a very old saying. It has never been quite as true as it is today, however, with the vast availability of espionage equipment and spy shops booming all around the world. Wherever you are, there might be someone listening or watching, or both.
Orwell foresaw this as early as the 1940s, when he published his amazing novel "1984". Even with a future that is still very different from the anti-utopia in the book, there are some striking similarities and many people nowadays can't help but wonder: "Is anyone spying on me?"
Environmental surveillance - eyes & ears everywhere
Environmental listening devices and cameras are a time-honored investigative law enforcement tradition and are already widely available on the private market as well. Today, such devices could be installed not only by the police and law enforcement agencies, but also by companies, private detectives and other individuals.
Typically, these devices include:
- Hidden microphones - listening devices can be surprisingly tiny, and still transmit at fair distance. They are no longer simply the domain of law enforcement either, with commercial versions available at your average spy shop. Typically, the microphones found in a spy shop are not as small, but are instead incorporated into everyday items, such as pens, calculators, sunglasses, etc.
- Directional microphones / amplifiers - these devices are aimed in the general vicinity of a conversation and amplify the sound from that direction, canceling out sounds from the surrounding area. Some larger versions can amplify a conversation from across a crowded street, but typically have a much shorter range. These too are commercially available.
- Hidden cameras - yet another kind of spy devices that are commercially available and disguised as everyday items. They are still a law enforcement standby. It is highly illegal for private citizens to deploy such devices in someone else's home but the commercially available models can be used to monitor your own home (for example a "nanny-cam" to ensure child safety). Government and police devices are typically much smaller and can be hidden better.
So... Have you checked that wall clock hanging beside you? Or the air freshener on the shelf? The pens on the table? Or even the power strip? It's no more just the walls. Today, there might be eyes and ears everywhere. Even maybe in robotic spy insects flying and crawling around you right now.
In case you've missed part 1 of this series, it's about mobile devices. Go ahead and learn about the dangers your mobile phone (i. e. you) faces every day and how to counter them.