This is not an episode of Black Mirror. A couple of months ago, Rilana Hamer from the Netherlands bought a small internet-connected camera from a local convenience store. She wanted to use the device to keep an eye on her puppy while away from the house. But it wasn’t only the puppy that was being watched.
She had purchased the device at Action – a local discount-chain store that mostly sells low-budget convenience utilities.
“You connect it to your Wi-Fi and plug it into your power outlet. With a password on it and a safe installation, I could keep an eye on my house (I hoped). You can operate it on your phone and listen to what’s happening in your home. This was perfect.” (Google-translated passage)
Until it wasn’t.
While the woman initially ignored the tool’s faulty behavior, she was prompted to take a second look after it continued to make noises. This is when she went back to the living room only to find the camera addressing her directly: “Bonjour madame,” it whispered.
Startled by the mysterious voice, Rilana responded: “Hi, is anyone there?” She moved around left and right, and surely the camera followed suit. “Bonjour madame, tout bien avec vous,” the camera murmered again. This is when the woman pulled the plug and shoved the device back in the box.
“I was full of fear and thought I was crazy,” Rilana said in a Facebook post. “I’m being watched, but for how long? What has that person seen from me? My house, my personal possessions…”
Eventually, the woman decided to turn on the camera one more time, armed with her camera phone in hand this time around. This is when the camera hummed creepily, “Hola señorita.” Watch the footage:
Rilana has since returned the camera to Action, whose technical team is currently performing a more thorough investigation, Dutch news outlet RTL reports.
“It is being investigated by the supplier,” Yvette Moll, a spokesperson for Action, confirmed. “The question is whether it’s in the camera or in the wrong use of passwords and WiFi connection. But it’s especially annoying for this woman.”
The camera has been retailing at the store since at least May, with no other similar complaints, according to Moll. “This is the first report and the camera is almost sold out. We have to check what this is about.”
But whatever is going there – it sure doesn’t look good for Action or the camera manufacturer.
This is hardly the first time internet-connected cameras have been caught surreptitiously spying on their owners.
Back in 2016, US-based manufacturer Genesis Toys was accused of distributing toys that secretly recorded every sound they can pick up and later sold it to third-party advertising and marketing firms.
Obviously, things get a bit more troubling when the device is watching and recording your every move. Scary stuff.