Why is the crime of candid photography so frequently banned?

  China News Weekly reporter / Zhang Xinyu

  Published in the 1042nd issue of "China News Weekly" on May 2, 2022

  The person being filmed walked into the room and took off his clothes, unaware of the eye behind him.

The "eyes" are hidden in the wall-mounted air conditioner in the hotel room, aimed at the bed, and the wires in the air conditioner continue to charge it, ensuring that more eyes from thousands of miles away can clearly capture any movements of the people in the room.

Some pictures were recorded by "eyes" and edited to become commodities with clearly marked prices.

  In more than 4 months, 30,000 such "eyes" were discovered from the shadows.

According to news from the Ministry of Public Security on March 7, since November 2021, the Cyber ​​Security Bureau of the Ministry of Public Security has deployed and carried out a crackdown on illegal photography and peeping in the black industry chain, and solved more than 160 criminal cases, arrested more than 860 criminal suspects, and arrested 30,000 illegally controlled webcams.

  However, people's fear of the eye behind it is difficult to reduce.

He Zhihui is the general manager of a security technology company. He remembers that a male customer was worried about being photographed secretly while staying in a hotel, so he bought testing equipment, and checked the room through the video guidance of technicians, and found nothing abnormal. Then he suspected that the flickering smoke alarm was a camera. Although the technician repeatedly told him not to worry, after hanging up the video call, the anxious tenant spent most of the night dismantling the smoke alarm, and finally lost the hotel. Several hundred dollars.

  The main business of He Zhihui's company was originally commercial testing. Before 2018, offline anti-theft detection and security work for corporate customers accounted for more than 60% of the company's business.

But now, more than 70% of He Zhihui's business comes from individual customers, who are suspiciously buying testing equipment in the online store, and then, under the guidance of technicians, test the candid recording equipment on their own.

  Behind the lack of sense of security, there are problems such as the difficulty of obtaining evidence and convicting criminal cases, and the mismatch between criminal behavior and punishment.

Countless cameras, still hidden in the dark.

Candid photography industrialization

  In 2005, He Zhihui was still a private detective, and he had already come into contact with all kinds of candid photography and eavesdropping equipment, which are not difficult to find in any large-scale electronic market.

However, He Zhihui recalled that the candid camera equipment at that time was rarely used to peep at other people's private lives.

  "Early candid camera equipment was bulky, especially the lens, which was as big as a wine glass, which was not easy to hide. Moreover, the candid camera equipment needed to be connected to a battery and a receiver, which was about the size of half a brick. Therefore, there will be unannounced visit bags, because the camera, batteries and receiving devices must be installed in the bag." He Zhihui said that around 2005, the secret camera equipment was mainly used for unannounced visits, such as reporters' investigation and evidence collection, and the price was more expensive, and it was sold for three Five hundred yuan.

  Around 2008, He Zhihui found that a smaller pinhole camera appeared on the market, with a lens diameter of one to two millimeters, and the volume of the storage module and circuit board of the secret camera device became only the size of a U disk.

"At that time, two forms of candid photography gradually appeared, one is hidden candid photography, the camera is hidden in umbrellas, shoes, buttons, hats, watches, etc., and can be carried with you, and the other is camouflaged candid photography, the camera is installed in Electronic clocks, power boards, mice, routers and other objects."

  He Zhihui said that in order to achieve a small size, these candid photography devices are almost all storage-type, "because the camera cannot be viewed when shooting, and it can only be viewed after returning to the original place and removing the memory card, so the candid photography mainly appeared in some public at that time. On occasions, it is relatively rare to appear in places such as hotels.”

  Around 2015, the volume of candid camera equipment has become quite small, the entire module including the camera and circuit board is only the size of a U disk, and with the emergence of 4G technology, candid camera equipment can store videos in memory cards. , it can also be transmitted in real time through a traffic card or Wi-Fi signal.

"After the breakthrough of communication technology, the replacement of candid camera equipment also appeared." He Zhihui said that at that time, the video quality of the candid camera equipment can reach 1080P. To buy such a candid camera equipment in the electronic market, you only need one Two hundred dollars.

  It was from then on that He Zhihui felt that there were significantly more cases of secret photography, and when he first engaged in security work, he never thought that secret photography and peeping would become so common in the future.

  After the popularity of home security cameras in the market, there is another way to secretly take pictures - by cracking the account and password of the home camera, peeping is implemented.

Sun Hao, general manager of the technology center of 360 Smart Life Group, told China News Weekly that the first batch of smart cameras for home scenarios appeared in 2014. They are wirelessly connected via Wi-Fi and support card recording, cloud storage, and remote viewing via apps. By 2021, the total number of smart cameras in the home security market has exceeded 45 million units.

  A person close to the police told China News Weekly that the black and gray software can scan and search for cameras within a certain range. If the password is the initial password or is too simple, it can be cracked and controlled.

  Yu Chong, an associate professor at the School of Criminal Justice at China University of Political Science and Law, believes that the proliferation of cameras in the market provides a technical guarantee for candid photography.

The development of information network technology can realize the separation of man and machine, allowing criminals to remotely control the camera, further lowering the threshold of crime.

  According to Yu Chong, another key reason for the frequent occurrence of candid shooting incidents is that secret shooting and peeping have been industrialized and chained. , the profits will be very high.”

  The aforementioned person close to the police told China News Weekly that at present, there are usually three links in the black industry chain of secret photography and peeping.

The top-level link is the production and sale of eavesdropping equipment, which includes not only the production of pinhole camera devices, but also the private modification of ordinary monitoring equipment.

The second link is the installation of eavesdropping equipment, which are installed in hotels, as well as in any items such as clothes and shoes.

The third link is to carry out snooping, which includes the installation of snooping, the sale of monitoring equipment control rights for others to spy on, and the dissemination and sale of videos by recording the content captured by the monitoring equipment.

  Yu Chong said that in the black industry chain of secret photography and voyeurism, as long as the upstream is filmed, there is no need to worry about selling it, and the spread of obscene and pornographic content downstream has stimulated the development of secret photography and voyeurism.

  According to the Ministry of Public Security, in a recent special crackdown, the Changzhou Public Security Bureau in Jiangsu destroyed a criminal gang that installed network cameras in hotel rooms in Yunnan, Guizhou, and Sichuan and sold their access rights, and seized access to the sold cameras. More than 1000 accounts.

In the criminal gang, the criminal suspect Deng Mou purchased a webcam from the Internet, removed the casing by himself, and installed the modified camera in Bijie, Guizhou, Zhaotong, Yunnan, Xichang, Sichuan and other places, and then registered a large number of webcam App accounts, with 100 yuan per account. sold at a price of $.

As the sales volume continued to increase, Deng Mou developed a large number of lower-level agents headed by Wei Mou's three-person gang, and they sold them at higher prices.

Before being detained by the police, four criminal suspects including Deng and Wei made illegal profits of more than 200,000 yuan.

  For criminal gangs that peep by cracking home camera account passwords, Black Grey software can help them break through geographical restrictions and control more camera permissions.

A case disclosed by the Beijing Third Intermediate People's Court in April 2021 showed that the defendant Wu controlled 180,000 cameras around the world through an app developed by himself, involving China, Japan, South Korea and other countries and regions.

  When the number of cameras controlled by criminal gangs is extremely large, their profit methods become more diverse.

A policeman who recently cracked a case of illegally controlling cameras told China News Weekly that when criminal gangs sell camera permissions, they will sell them in packages, such as integrating 400 camera account passwords into a group, each with a price of 128 yuan or 198 yuan. The price is sold, but not every one of the 400 accounts has normal access.

Criminal gangs will also sell access to a single camera. "They spend a long time peeping, and they will label the cameras in detail, and they will also be aimed at the bedroom. The price of couples living once a month and several times a month is different. The sales range from 20 yuan to 120 yuan depending on the content.”

Legislation is insufficient

  After the candid shooting incidents were exposed again and again, He Zhihui felt the subtle changes in the market.

"After 2019, pinhole cameras are basically not found in the market, and formal channels will definitely not be able to buy them."

  Since 2019, the special campaign against secret photography and peeping in the black industry chain has hardly stopped.

In the Ministry of Public Security's "Cleaning the Net 2019" special campaign, there was a special project to crack down on the illegal production and sale of pinhole camera black and gray industry crimes. At that time, 40 pinhole camera dens were destroyed, and finished pinhole camera products, semi-finished products, and accessories were seized. More than 1 million.

  From May to August 2021, the Central Cyberspace Administration of China, together with the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, the Ministry of Public Security, and the State Administration for Market Regulation, will organize a nationwide centralized governance of camera peeping and black production. During this period, e-commerce platforms such as JD.com, Taobao, and Xianyu will be removed from the shelves. More than 1,600 pieces of camera equipment were illegally publicized or sold illegally, 59 criminal suspects were arrested, and more than 1,500 sets of eavesdropping equipment were confiscated.

  But it is not easy to detect cases of peeping and voyeurism.

Yu Chong, an associate professor at the School of Criminal Justice at China University of Political Science and Law, said that the camera can appear on any object at any time and any place, with high flexibility and concealment, and the candid photography can be separated from the human and the machine. Even if the camera is found, it is difficult to detect the who installed it.

  The aforementioned police officer who has cracked the case of illegal camera control told China News Weekly that the most important thing in the case of secret camera shooting is objective evidence, but there are difficulties in obtaining evidence in such cases. , the device number will not be found.

Another police officer who recently participated in the investigation of the case of secret camera shooting said that due to the long installation time of the secret camera equipment and the short storage time for the playback of the equipment itself, it is also difficult to verify the victim without video evidence.

  Yu Chong said that even if the public security organs have captured the criminal suspects in the case of secret photography, they will still face the issue of the application of the law: Can they be convicted?

  Wang Ying, an associate professor at the Law School of Renmin University of China, told China News Weekly that the manufacture and sale of candid camera equipment may constitute the crime of illegally producing and selling special equipment for eavesdropping and eavesdropping as stipulated in the Criminal Law; if the perpetrator illegally uses the candid camera equipment to spy on others Privacy, if the relevant equipment is not used for sales or dissemination, if the relevant equipment belongs to the special equipment for eavesdropping and eavesdropping, the crime of illegally using the special equipment for eavesdropping and eavesdropping can be investigated for criminal responsibility.

If the secretly photographed content is sold and disseminated, according to the content of secretly photographed information, it may also constitute the crime of insulting or the crime of making, selling and disseminating obscene articles for profit, and the crime of disseminating obscene articles. Convicted and sentenced for heavier offenses.

  In judicial practice, there are few cases of the crime of illegal production and sale of special equipment for wiretapping and eavesdropping, and the crime of illegal use of special equipment for wiretapping and eavesdropping.

  Xu Dan, director of the second procuratorial department of the Haidian District Procuratorate in Beijing, told China News Weekly that the Haidian District Procuratorate has recently handled three cases of voyeurism and secret photography, of which only one case has been prosecuted by the procuratorate.

In this case, the criminal suspects purchased camera components from the Internet and installed them into sockets and lamp sockets for disguise, selling them online for profit, and also installed some modified candid photography equipment in the hotel room for candid photography.

The Haidian District Procuratorate believes that the criminal suspect's behavior constitutes the crime of illegally selling special equipment for wiretapping and photographing and the crime of illegally using special equipment for wiretapping and photographing, and will prosecute in accordance with the law.

  In the other two cases reviewed by the Haidian District Procuratorate, one was a criminal suspect who infiltrated a colleague's dormitory and installed a candid camera device in the dormitory, and the other was a criminal suspect who infiltrated a female employee's locker room in the subway system and installed a candid camera device.

In both cases, administrative penalties were eventually adopted, and no criminal means were used to regulate them.

  Xu Dan said that one of the obstacles to conviction is that the candid photography equipment needs to be identified as special spy equipment by the relevant appraisal personnel of the national security agency, or it is a special equipment for eavesdropping and eavesdropping, which has certain technical thresholds and professional difficulties. "In today's daily life, a large number of devices have the function of taking pictures or recordings, and the size is getting smaller and smaller, and they are all products produced under the license of the state. It is relatively difficult to identify a device as a device for eavesdropping and eavesdropping."

  Xu Dan added that even if the candid camera equipment is identified as special equipment for eavesdropping and eavesdropping, "serious consequences" are needed to be convicted, but the "serious consequences" of such cases are actually difficult to evaluate, such as the other two cases reviewed by the Haidian District Procuratorate. The case cannot be said to have serious consequences.

There is no clear judicial interpretation for the crime of illegally using special equipment for wiretapping and photo-piracy, so whether it can be convicted and whether it is more appropriate to use administrative punishment is controversial in both the practical and theoretical circles.

  "Criminal law is lagging behind. In the past, it was difficult to obtain special equipment for espionage or eavesdropping and eavesdropping. It did not take into account its widespread flooding, so the criminalization standards were relatively strict." Xu Dan believes that with the development of technology, with the development of technology , it is necessary to use judicial interpretation to clarify the conviction standards for the crime of wiretapping special equipment.

  As for the crime of remote intrusion into the victim's home camera to spy on their privacy, criminal responsibility is usually investigated for the crime of illegally controlling computer information systems.

Wang Ying said that if the secretly photographed content is sold and disseminated, it may also constitute the crime of insulting or the crime of making, selling and disseminating obscene materials for profit, and the crime of disseminating obscene materials.

  Xu Dan said that the crime of illegally controlling computer information systems has clear criminalization criteria.

According to the Interpretation on Several Issues Concerning the Application of Law in Handling Criminal Cases Endangering the Security of Computer Information System jointly issued by the Supreme People's Court and the Supreme People's Procuratorate in 2011, illegal acquisition of computer information system data or illegal control of computer information system, illegal control of 20 computer information systems above, or illegal gains of more than 5,000 yuan or economic losses of more than 10,000 yuan, shall be deemed as "serious circumstances".

  Since 2022, local courts, including the Jinan Pingyin Court, the Dezhou Decheng Court, and the Binzhou Development Zone Court, have concluded several cases of illegal control of computer information systems, and the defendants have been sentenced to prison terms ranging from 6 months to 3 years. .

"There are more and more relevant judgments from courts in various places. Although the sentences are not heavy, the number has increased." Yu Chong believes that this reflects the increase in the judiciary's crackdown on the crime of candid photography.

  However, Xu Dan said that most of the punishments faced by cameras for peeping and peeping are administrative penalties. According to the "Public Security Administration Punishment Law of the People's Republic of China", those who peep, secretly shoot, eavesdrop, or spread the privacy of others shall be detained for not more than 5 days. Or a fine of less than 500 yuan.

  "Once the privacy is leaked on the Internet, it is difficult to recover, and the data will be retained on the Internet for a long time." In Xu Dan's view, the social harm of camera candid crime is still incompatible with the punishment it faces.

  The aforementioned police officers who have investigated cases of camera peeping believe that due to insufficient legislation and low crime costs, camera peeping crimes are still frequent.

How to create a sense of security?

  Zhejiang University Intelligent System Security Laboratory (USSLAB) has 5 teachers and more than 40 masters and doctors. Five years ago, after seeing more and more news of hidden cameras in hotel rooms, the team thought it was necessary to develop An app that can detect hidden cameras and protect users' privacy.

  So an app they developed will land in 2022. Ji Xiaoyu, an associate professor at the School of Electrical Engineering of Zhejiang University, is the technical director of the project. He told China News Weekly that although there were some software that could detect hidden cameras on the market before, However, it is usually required that the detection device and the camera be connected to the same network for detection. "This requirement is quite high. If the criminals set the network to be an encrypted network, the software cannot connect, which will bring great challenges to the detection."

  Ji Xiaoyu said that their application is to find hidden cameras by capturing the network traffic pattern attributes of the cameras, and it does not need to be connected to the same network as the cameras during detection.

At present, the application has been preset in the system of a certain mobile phone.

  However, the privacy and security of citizens cannot rely solely on individuals to protect themselves.

Yu Chong said that legislation still needs to be improved to curb the crime of camera secret photography. "First of all, the necessary judicial interpretation must be followed, and it is necessary to clarify how the crimes of illegal use of wiretapping and special equipment for stealing photos apply." In addition, although there is no violation of personal privacy in the criminal law. However, Yu Chong believes that the criminal suspect can be held criminally responsible by expanding the scope of application of the crime of infringing on citizens' personal information.

  The crime of infringing on citizens' personal information refers to selling or providing citizens' personal information to others, and the circumstances are serious.

Xu Dan said that there has been no case of the crime of infringing on citizens' personal information to regulate the crime of camera secret photography. "There was no such consideration in the legislation, and the corresponding judicial interpretation did not point to the act of secretly photographing other people's pictures."

  However, Xu Dan believes that it makes sense theoretically to accuse criminal suspects of infringing on citizens' personal information. A violation of citizens' personal information.

  Camera products are the core tools of camera crime, but Wang Ying said that the accountability of camera manufacturers for product quality needs to be further explored in theory and practice.

  Sun Hao, general manager of the technology center of 360 Smart Life Group, told China News Weekly that the smart camera industry is currently in a stage of rapid growth. In the form of templates and sets of labels, the sales platform should strengthen supervision of such equipment.

  In Sun Hao's view, the biggest difficulty in preventing home smart camera products from being used by the voyeuristic black industry chain is that the products have a demand for personal privacy protection for private home surveillance scenarios, and at the same time, there are tens of millions of devices online, whether in terms of product privacy protection requirements In terms of cost, or cost realization, it is currently impossible to have a special team to review and distinguish whether the product is used for candid shooting scenarios like the public live broadcast platform.

  Sun Hao believes that one of the ways to curb the crime of camera secret photography is to promote the implementation of refined standards in the smart camera industry. For example, at the software usage level, the mobile phone number must be bound with real names, and a certain number of shares must be limited. verify.

At the hardware level, it is necessary to limit the product form, and not to make miniature camera products.

  Hotels are one of the most common places for camera peeps.

Wang Ying, an associate professor at the Law School of Renmin University of China, said that when criminals install secret cameras in hotels, if the hotel does not know about it, there is no criminal responsibility. In case of civil liability.

  He Zhihui said that a few years ago, his company had a plan to provide free training on pinhole camera detection for chain hotels across the country, so that hotels could learn to do their own daily testing, "For hotels, it is relatively easy to detect pinhole cameras. It’s easy, because the hotel rooms are simply decorated, and there are only a few places where pinhole lenses can be installed. As long as you master the testing skills, you can test a room in at most ten minutes.” The outbreak of the epidemic made He Zhihui’s plan unsuccessful, but He still sees a need for hotels to take over the day-to-day monitoring.

  "I have been calling for the hotel to increase the obligation to detect cameras. For example, after guests check out, the hotel should clean the room and add an item. After making the bed and cleaning the toilet, check whether there are hidden cameras in the room." China Yu Chong, an associate professor at the School of Criminal Justice at the University of Political Science and Law, believes that the detection cameras will not increase the pressure on the hotel, and this should not be done by the hotel guests themselves.

  Yu Chong also believes that it is possible to add a blacklist of people who take pictures and record secrets, just like the list of people who are dishonest and subject to execution, to restrict their qualifications and access to special places.

"Cidential photography will appear because of the emptiness of modern people and the desire to voyeurize the privacy of others, so it may be necessary to adopt means other than the law, such as educating the public to respect personal privacy." Yu Chong said.

  "China News Weekly" 2022 Issue 15

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