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A completely new approach to surveillance - should you be worried?

  nicoledavies      2014-08-11 05:41:58      2,196    0

Paranoia is not necessarily a bad thing - assuming someone is really out there to get you. True or not, the paranoid have had issues they need to control explode as the internet developed, they also got specific tools to make their secrets (or their life, not everybody has a dark secret) more secure and under control. Unfortunately to them, and to the amazement of science and science fiction fans worldwide, a new way of obtaining secrets has appeared and it’s something very few expected.

The result of the combined brainpower of Adobe, Microsoft and MIT researchers is the visual microphone, a device that utilizes a very sensitive camera to detect minute vibrations everyday objects around us suffer from when hit by a sound wave. For this to work, the visual microphone was fitted with a camera that can record up to 6 thousand frames per second, the movement of the objects is so slight it cannot be observed with a naked eye, a regular camera wouldn’t be able to catch it too, even in slow motion.
The quality of the sound received depends on many factors such as visibility, but assuming that’s not an issue - it also depends on the material the sound is being bounced off of. In an example shown by the scientist, when a bag of chips was used as source of vibration, the quality received was much greater than when houseplant leaves were used for comparison. At this moment the technology still could use some improvement as the best quality of sound the visual microphone recorded still made it rather difficult to distinguish between separate words, even though they were spoken very clearly and with no background noise.

So the question is: should you feel afraid? Is your privacy at stake here? No. At least - not yet. At this early stage of development, with the specific know how being secret, and with the high cost of the device, it is safe to say that at this point, this method is impractical, unreliable and very expensive. I have no doubt in my mind though that work on this technology will not stop and eventually it might become more than a s-f fantasy, it can and probably will become a reality.



Nicole Davies - security specialist at



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