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Webcams At Your Home - Added Security or Privacy Invasion?

I love technology, especially when it is helpful. And it is even better when it is helpful within a family environment. In many of my product reviews over at HighTechDad.com, I look at how well a gadget or piece of technology integrates into a family environment. And let’s face it, some things are good for the family like an eBook reader, and others not quite so, like a wood chipper. And I’m sure that there would be plenty of debate around specific items like computers, game consoles, HDTVs and the like.

But what about the potential controversy of having live video in and around your home? I’m sure there are many schools of thought on this so I would like to present a few sides of the argument and get your feedback as well.

Over the past years, technology for the household has become cheaper and easier to install and use, and I’m sure that there is a direct correlation between the increase of tech in the home and our electricity bills going up. When you walk around my house at night, every day is like Christmas but the lights are primarily red, blue and green and typically converging around power outlets. Apart from paying very high electrical bills though, this technology is adding some value to my home, with a couple of “always on” devices leading the way.

The Tech

I have installed video cameras on the exterior of my house, and in the public area inside (e.g., dining room/living room). I have a sound-enabled webcam as well. Each of these systems provide me with the ability to view live video remotely as well as access previously recorded video that is motion activated.

My exterior is covered by a Logitech Alert system. It provides me with daytime color video and nighttime, high-definition black and white video. The video is transmitted via a PowerLine network, meaning that I have two devices that I plug into my home power (e.g., a wall plug) and the video feed is transmitted simple through my existing electrical wiring. The installation of this was easy, the hardest being hanging the actual cameras. (I do have a full review of this system on my site.)

Inside the home, we have one webcam (a DropCam) that provides both audio and video live playback and recording. This is potentially where there is controversy compared to the exterior monitoring. The setup of the DropCam is incredibly easy. Simply connect it primarily to a wired network, configure your WiFi settings, then disconnect it and simply plug it into the wall wherever you want to have it. The nice thing is, once installed, you can move it around from room to room (e.g., baby monitor, plug it outside to watch your kids playing, etc.). I have a review of the DropCam on my site as well.

The Controversy

And so here’s the controversy. I’m not sure how you feel about having video surveillance in or outside of your house. For me, personally, the exterior monitoring is a no-brainer. I use it to see when people visit the front door or a delivery person leaves a package as well as to monitor our cars parked in the driveway. In fact, a while ago, our neighborhood had a rash of car break-ins and I was able to capture the suspect testing the car doors of our cars late at night. I saved the video and turned it over to the police. No controversy there, in my opinion. It’s purely safety-oriented!

I think the controversy comes on cameras inside of the home. Obviously, there are areas of the house that are strictly off limits: bedrooms and bathrooms. But some people feel uncomfortable having any type of monitoring whatsoever within the home. I can understand this, somewhat.

We have our inside camera in plain sight. Anyone who comes in can see it. Some people ask about it while others don’t seem to really care. It’s helpful being able to see what the kids are doing in the living room when you are in a different part of the house. Or, if you have a baby sitter, you can see what everyone is up too remotely. It’s really, in my opinion, an extra set of eyes (and ears) that extend beyond the physical limits of your home. It provides an additional sense of security, in my mind.

The funny thing is, my kids have now incorporated the live webcam (which, by the way, is completely password-protected and only accessible by my wife and I) into their actions in the “public space” of our home. My wife and I use it as leverage and a digital “tattle-taler” (e.g., “we saw what you did on camera”). And my kids will call me up at work to show me something via the DropCam, whether it be homework or a new dance that they learned or what they are wearing.

But I can see where people might think that it is an invasion of privacy, especially if a camera is covert or hidden. But honestly, I think the advantages outweigh the disadvantages.

However, I operate in a bit of a tech bubble. So, I’d like to find out what you think of having cameras in or outside of the house. Is it good for security? Are there privacy concerns? Have you set one up in your home? Why would or wouldn’t you do it? Let me know your take on how you protect your family at home!

Read more of Michael’s writing at HighTechDad.com.
And don’t miss a post! Follow Michael on Twitter (@HighTechDad)!

 

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