Public Webcams and Where to Find Them
Contrary to popular belief, security cameras are not always as secure as we’d like them to be.
Apparently, in the US alone, there are literally thousands of unprotected surveillance public webcams (like in I'mlive) that do not have any default usernames or passwords attached. There are resources indexing over 70,000 locations in 256 countries across the planet with such peep-friendly cameras.
And guess what – it’s surprisingly easy to locate websites that offer streamlined footage from such cameras! There is no hacking involved, and the deal is very simple: the resources simply locate cams hidden in search engines, take a snapshot and publish it online. The relevance of the footage varies, with some snapshots updating hourly, and some – much less frequently.
To be exact, the web cameras in question are those with IP addresses, which send a continuous stream of pictures in the Motion JPEG format. The feeds are checked every couple of hours or so, and the first frame of the video is grabbed and resized as a thumbnail. This thumbnail is exactly what gets displayed online and refreshed periodically.
So why do such resources even exist? To quote one of them, the information is accumulated to “show the importance of security settings”, demonstrating what happens If you don’t change the default password, potentially making the footage available for everyone online. It is often implied that people who find their own cameras online displayed in this fashion can request for the footage to be removed…but hey, doesn’t it require knowing about the existence of the said resource? Oh well. Hopefully, someone else will complain about them, which is usually encouraged.
Surprisingly, some people even want their cameras to be added to the directories, in which case they are more than welcome to contact the admins and provide their details.
It also helps that locating the cams precisely is hardly ever possible, as search engines point to the ISP address and not the physical address of the camera. This makes the information accurate only to a few hundred miles, which makes it rather difficult for individuals with malicious thoughts to find exact locations, providing extra security. Basically, the users will know which city the camera belongs to, but not it's exact position or address.
Nevertheless, it’s hard to deny the meditative value of such cams. If you offer about other people’s privacy, you can always find and use a public cam site that refuses to stream footage from private cams and only digs into street views, traffic lights, intersections and the like.
What about the copyrights? Unsurprisingly, using the footage for commercial purposes is a terrible idea, as the videos are very likely to be copyrighted by whoever owns the cameras. The snapshots on the websites themselves are assumed to be fair use according to copyright law. However, as noted above, it’s pretty easy for the owners to get their images removed, and no admin will risk disobeying.
Hope you’ve enjoyed this little insight into the world of public cams. Enjoy responsibly!