Balloon versus CCTV: balloon wins!

William Lamson's art-project is delightful: a helium balloon artfully positioned so as to blind a CCTV. This could be a lot of fun for real-world shenanigans or for a piece of fiction. Just got to hope for a windless day. Link (Thanks, Turadg!)


  1. excellent idea! I’ll use a bunch. Could also loft a battery run jammer to a better position on wireless CCTV. Hey, how about a paint squirt gun on a RC helicopter toy?

  2. stick some double-sided tape on the balloon and then you won’t have to worry about the wind so much.

  3. This question probably isn’t relevant for private cameras, but with respect to, say, the cameras that are in extensive use by the Government in England– Are there laws prohibiting the tampering with the operation of these things?

    I’m not advocating doing or not doing this, but I just think it’s a good idea for people to be informed of potential consequences if they do decide to follow by example.

  4. In the UK we have long been playing with ways to disable CCTV. We have had people use climbing equipment to shin up poles and cover them with black plastic bin bags. We have experimented with running up a daisy chain of helium filled mylar balloons on a collar around the post and I even know of one instance when a couple went along to a car in full view of the cameras with one of those cans meant for holding small amounts of petrol, poured it all over a car in the street and stood back laughing and lighting smokes till they heard a siren and diligently started a random act of kindness and washed the car with the water they had poured over it. Street theater still has the best style.

  5. I like the idea of civil disobedience more than vandalism. While a can of spray paint could certainly disable the camera, the more clever, elegant and non-destructive approach makes a stronger statement in my opinion.

  6. Blocking a camera used to repress us is an act of expressing displeasure at repression. I prefer redirecting our world to use cameras for protecting life and property from criminals,fire and other depredations. Example being – Is it a false alarm or a real fire! A burglar or a stray dog in the bushes? I embrace cameras used for such ends. My wife owns a convertible. The vandal either deterred from slashing that top or made to pay restitution is the police power used rightly.

    Protecting our freedom from crime and NOT for persecution of political speech or morals proctor crap.
    Now if you consider your view of morality as justifying any ends to achieve it? Congratulations on successfully scaring the crap out of me.

  7. I’m sure it’s illegal, but then they’d have to have put in ANOTHER camera watching the first one to catch you, no?

  8. Isn’t it creepy to write these comments when there is a little eyeball watching you from the upper right-hand corner of each comment box?

  9. The problem is that being watched assumes criminals exist, which shouldn’t be the assumption, but the rare exception. Assume everyone is an upstanding citizen and you have a free and peaceful place. Authoritative and neglectful parenting is where this notion of us vs. them begins, but schools are where it is indoctrinated into our youth. There should not be cameras, nor metal detectors, there should be fearless confidence in right, trust in our fellow human beings to do the right thing, but due self-defense if they fail to live up to our basic principal of “initiate no force”.

  10. #4: I really like that one – it’s probably one of the most powerful ways. It’s also one of the most bold, since you’re facing up to the police in person, rather than trying to avoid being caught (damaging a camera).

    What I wonder is, can the police charge you for wasting their time by pretending to commit a crime? How legally safe is this kind of baiting?

  11. Isn’t it creepy to write these comments when there is a little eyeball watching you from the upper right-hand corner of each comment box?

    I for welcome our…

    Oh, forget it. I just can’t.

  12. Well, to answer my own question, here is what the Crown Prosecution Service has to say about the charge of “wasting police time”.

    Apparently it only applies to “a false report orally or in writing” – IANAL, but it seems to me like it would not apply to actions taken that resemble a crime over the CCTV.

    Hmmm … I wonder what they might charge someone with if they deliberately left a “suspicious package” say in a Tube Station. (Not that I’m recommending this at all – I just lost a chunk of time getting home because of a bomb scare at Clapham Common.)

  13. I’m sure now that someone thought it up and took a picture of it and posted it on the intertubes, there will be a law banning this practice in a few days.

  14. Wouldn’t three pieces of string effective wind-proof the balloon?

    Probably pays to anchor one string and wait for the wind to be in your favour before setting up the other two strings…

  15. We did that months ago, in the Montreal metro, to block the fucking projectors showing ads on the huge screens at various stations. Until we got kicked out.

  16. I hate the idea of government surveillance as much as the next liberal, but most cameras(in the UK I don’t know about elsewhere) are owned privately for the protection of property owners.

    Considering how angry we all get when anyone attempts to restrict our right to photograph in public, isn’t a little bit hypocritical to get angry when the camera in question is attached to a wall?

    Of course, they are ugly as hell, something should be done about that. Steampunk CCTV mod anyone?

    The danger comes when they’re all networked and connected to face recognition software.

  17. Problem is, that big ugly “camera” is likely a decoy. Real surveillance cameras are likely to be disguised as exit signs, smoke alarms, etc.

  18. Mobashir,

    Oddly, every comment that you’ve ever made has had a link to your blog in it. Please don’t do that any more.

  19. #10: The problem isn’t the cameras in it of themselves. A camera is no worse than a police officer, right? No one objects to police officers walking the street, do they?

    The big issue we live in democracies or places that are run on democratic principles. This sounds great until you realize that it only takes a slim majority to start wreaking havoc on the minority. The majority can impose unjust laws. Normally unjust laws are not such a big deal, especially minor ones. People break minor laws all the time because the police can’t enforce them. Hell, in the US we have places were sex toys are illegal and you can’t sell beer with greater than 5% alcohol. We even had a state where anal sex was illegal. Of course, everyone merrily ignores the laws.

    Once you start to perfect your ability to catch criminals, especially petty crimes (which is mostly what CCTV catches), it goes from being an easily ignored nuisance to a serious civil liberties issue.

    Consider for a moment what would happen to you if all of a sudden we had the power to retroactively prosecute you for all the crimes you have committed in your life time. I don’t know about you, but I sure as hell would be looking at literally billions of dollars worth of fines and life in prison. Have I ever violated a law that matters (theft, violence, etc)? No. Have I violated a whole pile of laws throughout my life that were either not worth following or have punishments that are wildly out of proportion for the crime? Hells yes.

    What scares me about CCTV is not catching thieves vandals. It is that as law enforcement gets better at find and prosecuting petty crimes, society gets tossed into a straight jacket. I personally don’t want to live in a world where I get nailed for J-walking, violating the countless alcohol laws, getting tossed in jail on drug charges, or getting fine millions of dollars for downloading music and movies. That doesn’t make for a safer world. It makes for a boring and shitty world that no sane person wants to live in. I don’t wanted nerf wrapped around all the sharp objects that I could possibly scrape myself on.

  20. I’m so torn about those cameras, they could be used for good, but it seems a lot of people who want to be in charge of them are much more interested in behavior control then discouraging crime. Eh, which is also behavioral control but the kind all societies need to function smoothly.

    Here’s why, though I love the idea of the balloon being used as a statement about the cameras, I also have to question it …. seven years ago I was sexually assaulted on a bus, the man who did it simply got off and disappeared before anyone could stop him…. unfortunately, the camera on the bus that would have caught this attack had been covered with spray paint. During the attack I never got a good look at the guy, the cameras would have not only been hard evidence of his guilt, but also a way to identify him.

  21. Antinous,

    Yes, I have provided links to my blog, in some of my posts, but they have always been links that are relevant to the discussion at hand, and not random spam. I don’t see anything wrong with that.

    1. The standard for links is that they must add value to the discussion in the form of additional information, graphics, etc. When there’s a link in every single comment, it just looks like you’re trying to drive traffic to your site. I’m sorry if that’s an incorrect assumption on my part, but we like to keep discussions about BB posts in BB threads.

  22. Rindan gets it. Yet the experience recounted by Zombie underscores why disabling cameras can be ungood. Now of course had Zombie been armed and put the would have been perp out of our misery? Why then the absence of self defense being provable could get used by the prosecution. Comments on matters such as HOW we use security tools are by my take more society changing than mere childish destruction.

    CREATIVE street theater to raise awareness can be a very worthy act. For it’s discussion kickstart potential may help us to a world where that camera is used to PREVENT a crime and NOT to repress free society. As free society will not remain so if we tolerate freedom being arbitrarily repressed. Thus we rethink how those cameras got there in the first place. Think on WHY so to speak. Then think about our balloon artist. Were they aware of how much constructive discourse their defiant act would spark?

    Or was it just an art shot?

  23. William Lamson came up with a brilliant and gentle method to subvert the camera and create a message that gives people a laugh and opens up a bit of space for thought. Look to this example, it’s golden. Solutions solved with delight (and not the maniacal type of delight) are worth a thousand destructive approaches.

  24. I’m not exactly sure but they say the taste is bitter, yet oddly piquant at least to the individual. When eaten in groups, it only leads to bad behavior.

  25. im amazed no-ones mentioned : hidden Infra-red laser pointing at the cam.. itd drive them nuts..

  26. In case anyone’s thinking about using high-powered lasers to destroy invasive CCTV cameras, it’s highly disrecommended. The reason is that a laser strong enough to damage the camera is also strong enough to permanently damage the human eye, and it’s possible to accidentally reflect the laser beam into your own or someone else’s eye.

    paintballs to the lens, waterguns full of water/paint mixture, or large hammers and rocks (if the camera is within reach) are safer and just as effective.

  27. sling shot? paint-head arrow or crossbow bolt? balloon lofting shave cream filled balloon with thumbtack? stepladder and cream pie? stand and flag? fire starter jelly filled balloon? telescopic sight and rifle? human pyramid and brick? smeared honey and raspberry ants? squirted agar media and quick growing fungus/bacterial matting? open tub of fuming nitric acid below it? acoustic beam attack? home mnde particle accelerator in building next store? fist-full of rare earth magnets with ribbon streamers thrown at casing? kidnapping the local politicians and mailing them back a piece at time until the cameras are taken down?

  28. It reminds me of the short story “Repent, Said the Tick Tock Man to the Harlequin” by Harlan Ellison. A great story about an every-man raging small but successful battles against a tyranny that’s obsessed with time management.

    Loved the story about the couple taunting the camera with a can of petrol but it is really soapy water.

    And for some reason the idea of flash mobs performing for the cameras appeals to me. Maybe a reenactment of some grizzly horror movie?

  29. #4 Anonymous-

    I… have an incredible urge to emulate this, now.

    If I do not return, remember me well!

  30. C.D., you should be more cautious in how you promote civil disobedience. You are not a citizen of the U.K. (if I’m not mistaken), and if you piss off the authorities enough you’re going to find yourself back in Canada. And if you are on a U.K. “unwelcome list” guess who else is going to keep you out?

  31. So far, my favorite suggestion has been little rare-earth magnets with lightweight yet durable streamers attached. It’s clever, non-dangerous, has a good chance of succeeding, and doesn’t damage the camera. It might even be pretty.

    My favorite weird use of surveillance cameras came from one of Bruce Schneier’s newsletters: Surveillance Saver. As the site says: “SurveillanceSaver is a screensaver for OS X and Windows that shows live images of over 400 network surveillance cameras worldwide.”

    It’s a great way to learn about the banality of most surveillance cameras; also, what time the sun comes up in Reykjavik and Hammerfest. And once in a while you get a look at the Reddish pigs, which are fun. They started out as four cute little piglets, and have been growing rapidly all summer. I’ll miss them when they get eaten.

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