On Saturday afternoon during a weekend visit to New York City, we were walking back to the hotel when we spied a place called the Spy Shops. Think Q in James Bond and that's what you'll find here. A gadget lover's paradise, all designed for snooping. Naturally I had to stop.
The Old Change Your Voice on the Cell Phone Trick
For $50 you can get a device that lets you disguise your voice on your cell phone or how about a cell phone you give to a spouse you suspect of cheating and every call he or she makes transmits back to you? There was a pen that was actually a digital recording device so you could surreptitiously record a meeting and a small digital recorder with a sensitive microphone for picking up conversation that you could hide in your pocket for the same purpose. It's also voice activated if you want to hide it in a room. Both of these connect to your computer with a supplied USB cable.
You Want Nanny Cams? We Got Nanny Cams
Hidden video cameras, sometimes known as nanny cams because parents often use them to spy on the family nanny, are devices that go to incredible lengths to conceal a hidden camera to allow you to record activity in a room without being detected. There was one in a teddy bear, another in computer speakers, a third in the DVD player--and the electronics devices all worked--but my favorites were the fully operational clock radio and the iPod docking station with hidden camera of course. You can record activity with any of these items and the recording file gets saved to an SD card you can watch on your computer later on.
Just Because You're Paranoid...
All of this information about hidden devices might be making you understandably paranoid, so how about some device detection gadgets? That's right, you can turn the table on the spies by buying a kit that includes a gadget for detecting listening devices and hidden cameras. The latter is about the size an MP3 player and when you turn it on, it sends out pulsing infra-red light. When you look through the eye piece, it enables you to see the hidden camera staring out at you from the alarm clock, teddy bear, smoke detector or whatever.
And listening bugs, well they are transmitters, so you can use a second device to track down bugs by picking up the transmission signals.
One of my favorite items in the story was a pair of sunglasses with mirrors on the inside corners so you could spy on someone behind you and watch them through the mirrors without them knowing.
One final hilarious note (at least to me as a New Englander in New York) was that there was a framed newspaper article on the wall behind the counter about the New England Patriots' Spy Gate story. Store employees were quoted as saying it was an amateur operation. No kidding.
It was an amazing gadgetry tour, which I really enjoyed from a technology perspective, but all of these snooping devices certainly gave me pause. And I have to say when I got back to our hotel room I looked the alarm clock over pretty carefully.