China: videos from private surveillance cameras on sale

[German]Hackers in China seem to have discovered a new business model. Tens of thousands of videos of hacked surveillance cameras are being sold online. Many of these videos are quite boring and show people just sitting in their houses or hotels. But the video clips sold online as “home video packages” may well contain more explosive material. A criminal network has probably been established that also secretly installs surveillance cameras in hotels to satisfy Chinese users’ greed for “finding out what their neighbor is up to in their four walls.”


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The South China Morning Post uncovered the whole thing in its English-language edition. Chinese broadcaster Henan Television had probably previously reported on the issue. The video footage shows clips from cameras installed by homeowners for security reasons. Other footage comes from cameras that were probably secretly installed in hotels, locker rooms and beauty salons.

The videos are priced according to their content and sold on social media, the TV station reported Monday in an undercover report. Videos from hotels with little excitement potential go for around US$3 over the counter, whilevideo clips that include nudity or sexual acts cost 50 yuan (US$8) each.

Then, those who want a real-time peep show can book it as a “fixed-price meal.” People can buy IDs and passwords from cameras in 10 households for just 70 yuan (US$11), while 10 hotels plus 10 households cost 150 yuan (US$23) and 20 hotels plus 20 households for 258 yuan (US$39), according to another vendor.

In a group chat on QQ, an instant messaging service run by tech giant Tencent, the “group leader” of one provider said he had tens of thousands of videos in stock. He within 20 days in February shared over 8,000 videos in a group chat. Those group chat members were VIP members who would then sell the videos to their network.

“I have so many video clips that you can’t finish them all within six months, even if you watch 24 hours a day,” the man is quoted as saying from another voice chat recording. In the chat, the salesman promised to deliver anything a customer could imagine. In the process, he also offered a way to make money: “If you want to make money, you can be my agent – get them from me at a lower price and sell them at a higher price. I have a dozen people traveling around the country installing cameras everywhere. Even if the hotel finds out, we only lose one camera, which is worth a few hundred yuan. We edit a few clips to sell online, and that covers the loss.”


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Videos showing ordinary family life are becoming more popular, the man is quoted as saying. It’s pretty dull though, the Chinese seem to be – thanks to decades of conditioning – pretty much burned out. Sort of like “what’s the neighbor doing, let’s catch him doing something forbidden or embarrassing”. In a video shared in the QQ group, a family of three was caught on hidden camera vacationing with a host family. The mother was lying on the sofa and was busy with her cell phone. The father was half naked and had a face mask on while their toddler was playing in front of them. The video lasted 8 hours. “Videos like this are primitive. A lot of people like that kind of thing these days, watching people’s privacy, what they’re doing … You know what, I sold this video several hundred times,” he said. Poor China.


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