FBI Director To Americans: Tape Over Your Webcam

| by Nik Bonopartis
A laptop used for surveillanceA laptop used for surveillance

Offering IT advice, the FBI's director says FBI employees should put tape over "the little camera things that sit on top of the screen" on their computers, and says everyone else should as well.

FBI Director James Comey first broached the subject back in April, when he was delivering a speech on privacy issues to an audience at Kenyon College in Ohio.

“I saw something in the news, so I copied it, I put a piece of tape over the camera,” Comey said according to Entrepreneur magazine, “because I saw somebody smarter than I am had a piece of tape over their camera.”

Comey broached the subject again on Sept. 14, when he was attending a conference hosted by the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies.

“You go into any government office and we all have the little camera things that sit on top of the screen," the FBI director said. "They all have a little lid that closes down on them. You do that so that people who don’t have authority don’t look at you. I think that’s a good thing.”

As Entrepreneur reports, some observers have noted the irony of Comey's statements, given the fact that he leads an agency that has demanded hardware and software companies -- including giants like Apple and Microsoft -- build backdoors into their devices and programs for the FBI's benefit.

Back in March, Apple famously refused the FBI's demand to create bespoke software to unlock an iPhone that belonged to terrorist Syed Rizwan Farook, who gunned down 14 people in San Bernardino, California, last year. Apple defied a federal court's order to comply with the FBI's demand, The New York Times reported, but another software company stepped in to assist the FBI in cracking the phone.

David Szuchman, chief investigator at the Manhattan District Attorney's Office, told Entrepreneur that most people won't have to worry about hackers spying on them because there's no profit in it. But, he said, it's a valid way of ensuring that no one's watching.

"Putting tape over the camera is a prophylactic measure that may not be necessary for the majority of the population," Szuchman said, "but can be effective in preventing unwanted and illegal surveillance."

Sources: Entrepreneur (2), The New York Times / Photo credit: Intel Free Press/Flickr

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