Artist uses unprotected webcams to peer into private lives

  • 17/08/2016
Artist uses unprotected webcams to peer into private lives

An artist who put private photos taken from people's webcams on sale has been forced to withdraw them.

Nye Thomson gathered images from online cameras inside people's homes, including shots of ailing pensioners and children.

But after inquiries, she's agreed to blur the subjects' faces.

Thompson found online webcams unprotected by passwords. Without the camera owners' knowledge or consent, she turned the images into art in East London. The shots, as you can imagine, are deeply personal.

Most of the photos in the exhibition are extremely intrusive - pensioners in bed, children in their nightclothes. Not only has the artist put these images on gallery walls, she's also selling limited edition prints for hundreds of pounds each.

When the exhibition opened the last week, none of the faces were obscured. But that has changed since local media started investigating, and the sales operation has stopped as well.

She still feels the show's in the public interest. In her search for unguarded cameras, the artist found dozens in Hong Kong.

It's a major part of the exhibition, but now their privacy watchdog wants the images deleted for good.

"We as regulators would like to see that these images are removed from the gallery," says Privacy Commissioner for Hong Kong Stephen Wong. "I would also like to see that the artist would delete or destroy all these images with identifiable persons."

Even if she does, legal experts fear she's already committed a crime.

"What's happened here may be criminality," says senior technology lawyer Pinsent Masons.

Aside from the legality, you're probably wondering how it's possible for the artist to get the webcam pictures. If you install one and don't set a strong new password, it could end up broadcasting to the world.

The good news is the solution is, for once, cheap and simple - stick tape over the lens. Sound stupid? Not according to Facebook's founder, it seems. Mark Zuckerberg was recently pictured with a taped-up webcam.

More gadgets are going online, but behind each one is a person and it's their privacy that's under the spotlight.

Channel 4 News