+ A

Mini camera devices make a massive impact

Apr 24,2017
이미지뷰
A 4K high-definition lens comparable to those found in Galaxy S8 phones and image stabilization with 11 hours of recording time may sound like familiar specs, but this is not what you might be thinking.

Inconspicuous miniature cameras built into eyeglasses are widely available through online retailers. A union of IT and camera miniaturization has created a Cambrian explosion of advances in candid photography and video voyeurism. Critics are therefore calling for restrictions on the sale and purchase of these items.

The products offered online are astounding in their variety; cameras in the shape of power banks, smartwatches, car keys and smartphone cases, even thermos bottles. In the past, one had to surreptitiously place a camera in a dark bag, having to make sure the camera lens aligned with a discrete hole. Now, this method has gone the way of the horse and buggy.

In the case of the most popular item, hidden-camera eyeglasses, the camera lens is embedded in the bridge of the pseudo-spectacles. If one spots a curiously close stranger sporting thick eyeglasses, one has almost no choice but to assume the worst nowadays.

Making matters worse, the majority of new hidden camera releases are able to record in HD. Online venders guarantee the quality of their products. The quality is such that one can read the text of a building’s signs across a street.

Car-key cameras have the capability to record in ultra-HD, and include image stabilization and low-light recording.

Often, cameras can also be docked in USB ports and one can immediately transfer the files to a computer. Hidden-camera power banks are actually functional and can charge smartphones. On average, these electronics have an asking price of 200,000 won ($175) to 500,000 won.

Hidden cameras were in the spotlight recently when the Kim Young-ran Act (Improper Solicitation and Graft Law) was introduced last September. Many ranparazzi, a portmanteau of the Kim Young-ran antigraft law and paparazzi, have sought out these items to uncover violations of the law.

Anyone is able to browse and purchase these products, irrespective of age.

When searching for hidden cameras on Daum, a portal website, about 20 online businesses specializing in hidden cameras popped up at the top of the page. These businesses pay advertisement fees to ensure this.

Naver, another portal website, also featured these websites accompanied by advertising blogs.

One can also easily purchase hidden cameras offline in places such as Saeun Shopping Arcade in Jongno District or at the electronics market in Yongsan District, central Seoul.

A bill was proposed in the National Assembly to prevent the misuse of miniature cameras, but it did not go anywhere.

Early this month, 12,000 people signed a petition proposing modifying legislation related to miniature cameras on the National Assembly’s petition website. They said that those who sell, purchase and possess hidden cameras must be subjected to strict qualification checks.

Jin Sun-mee, Democratic Party lawmaker, said on April 10, “In order to respond to the explosion of ‘hidden camera crimes,’ we will enact a law.”

BY HA SUN-YOUNG [hwang.hosub@joongang.co.kr]