Airbnb has a hidden camera problem: Airbnb hosts keep getting caught using hidden webcams to spy on people staying in their unlicensed hotel-rooms, and while the company proclaims a zero tolerance policy for the practice, the reality is that the company tacitly tolerates Airbnb hosts who engage in this creepy, voyeuristic behavior.
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People in Soho, Piccadilly Circus, and Leicester Square are being told by the London Metropolitan Police to submit to a trial of the force's notoriously inaccurate, racially biased facial recognition system, which clocks in an impressive error-rate of 98% (the system has been decried by Professor Paul Wiles, the British biometrics commissioner, as an unregulated mess).
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Topping the Electronic Frontier Foundation's don't-buy for Christmas list: Facebook's Portal in-home spycams, followed closely by Alexa/Google Home and other "home hubs"; Verizon's "AppFlash" spyware-equipped phones; and even the Elf on the Shelf gets a look in (normalizes surveillance!).
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If you're worried that your Airbnb host has hidden a camera in the place you've rented, because that is a thing that garbage people do, you can use these handy tips to spot it.
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Some strange things happened to papa-to-be Todd Cameron and his pregnant partner during their maternity photo shoot. It started off harmless enough, a nice couple in a field of pumpkins showing off that baby bump. But then it got weird... fast:
Looks like "baby" isn't going to wait for the delivery room
Baby come back...!
This wasn't the end. See what happens next by checking out their Facebook photo album with all the photos from the shoot.
photos by Li Carter, used with permission Read the rest
Police in Montgomery County, Texas are searching for this mysterious woman who was apparently ringing multiple doorbells in the middle of the night at a subdivision over the weekend. Read the rest
The Slenderman is a boogeyman born from the Something Awful forums that manifested in the real world in 2014 when two pre-teen girls stabbed their friend 19 times to please The Slenderman. "A Self-Induced Hallucination" is director Dan Schoenbrun's documentary about The Slenderman that he made entirely from archival footage.
"The Slender Man. He exists because you thought of him. Now try and not think of him."
-Username "I," posted June 15th, 2009 on the Something Awful forums. (User was later banned for "post(ing) like a weird fucker.")
"Why I Spent Months Making An Archival Documentary about The Slenderman" (Filmmaker Magazine)
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Polina Verbitsaya has gotten quite adept at sculpting polymer clay into weird sculptures, like disturbing people, body parts, and and other visceral gew-gaws. Read the rest
Spain's got a stiffy for football, or soccer, if you must.
When a football match is on, just about everyone in the country loses their minds. TVs are gathered round, siestas are forgone, and team songs, in any bar you chance, will be full of scarf-swinging loons banging on tables and screaming for every goal. It’s loud, chaotic and lovely. For many Spaniards, catching a game while on the go involves downloading a smartphone app fronted by Spain’s national football league, Liga de Fútbol Profesional. Available for iOS and Android handsets, the La Liga app is not only licensed to stream football games, but also lets users keep track of the stats for their favorite teams and players.
Oh, it also tracks your every move and taps your smartphone's microphone, supposedly in the name of helping to root out unauthorized match broadcasts in bars, restaurants and cafes.
From El Dario, via Google Translate:
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The Liga de Fútbol Profesional, the body that runs the most important sports competition in Spain, is using mobile phones of football fans to spy on bars and other public establishments that put matches for their clients. Millions of people in Spain have this application on their phone, which accumulates more than 10 million downloads, according to data from Google and Apple.
All of these people can become undercover informants for La Liga and the owners of football television broadcasting rights. If they give their consent for the app to use the device's microphone (which is common in many applications), they are actually giving permission for La Liga to remotely activate the phone's microphone and try to detect if what it sounds like is a bar or public establishment where a football match is being projected without paying the fee established by the chains that own the broadcasting rights.
If you're not already wearing a tinfoil hat, it may be a good time to start: a pair of engineers based out of the University of Michigan have figured out a way to create a light-powered camera sensor that's only a millimeter in size: small enough to be practically invisible to a casual observer.
According to a paper published in IEEE Electron Device Letters by Euisik Yoon and Sung-Yun Park, the new camera has the potential to not only be insanely small, but also, self sustaining, thanks to a solar panel placed directly behind the camera's image sensor, which is thin enough that light, in addition to what's needed to create an image, is able to pass right through it. This could provide the camera with all the power it needs to be able to continue to capture images, indefinitely. At a maximum of 15 frames per second, the images it captures aren't of the best quality, but they're more than adequate for creeping on an unsuspecting subject.
The good news is that, for the time being, the camera is nothing more than a proof-of-concept. In order for it to be deployed in the real world as a near-invisible surveillance device, someone a lot smarter than me will need to figure out how to store image data and transmit it using hardware that's just as discrete as the camera's image sensor and power source are.
Fingers crossed that it'll take them a while to work those issues out.
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"Extremely dangerous for democracy," is just one phrase in the uncanny propagandistic script that dozens (hundreds?) of news anchors "report" in this compilation video. The effect is creepy and surreal; the connection is that all the stations are owned by the same conservative corporation, Sinclair, which is where the marching orders come from. Read the rest
As if the Elf on a Shelf wasn't creepy enough, now they've put Peeps in the faux-surveillance game.
A new book and plush Peep sold together as Peep on a Perch is encouraging parents to start a new "Easter family tradition":
The soft plush Easter Peep included in the set can be perched anywhere throughout the home. Children will be proud to have the Easter Peep watch them being good all day as they get ready for bed without making a fuss, help out around the house, and use good manners. And the more kindness the Easter Peep sees, the happier the Easter Peep gets! PEEPS® fans of all ages will love to make this a new Easter family tradition.
One Amazon reviewer (who gave the product five stars) writes, "The book encourages children to help, share and be kind as the Peep reports directly to the Easter Bunny." No, just no. Read the rest
Friday the 13th's bad guy Jason Voorhees can't die but he can be chained under a lake near Crosby, Minnesota.
Dread Central reports:
Remember the end of Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives where Megan and Tommy manage to trap Jason in the bottom of Crystal Lake? Well, it seems that some random person has recreated this scene by planting a Jason statue, complete with mask and machete, 120 feet deep in a Minnesotan lake that is supposedly very popular with divers!... The statue was planted in 2013 and, as such, has gone through some wear and tear over the years.
The man behind the statue, diver Curtis Lahr, captured this footage of his creepy creation in 2014:
He went back at the end of last year and shot this video to show the goalie mask-wearing villian's current condition (now 17% more creepy):
P.S. Fans of the franchise may enjoy this upcoming tour of "Camp Crystal Lake" (which takes place at the actual film location in New Jersey, not where the Jason statue is in Minnesota).
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Your kids thought that Elf on the Shelf was a dirty snitch, but just wait until they get a load of this Santa Cam.
For just $19.99 you can further perpetuate one of the world's biggest lie to children, the existence of Santa Claus. Because, that jolly guy in the red suit knows when you are sleeping and he knows when you are awake, with or without this (dummy) cam.
Santa can "check-in" from the North Pole to see when kids are kind to others, listen to their parents, and make good choices!
But wait, there's more! The let's-normalize-survelliance cam comes with the book, The Santa Cam Saves Christmas.
A big thanks to SF Slim! Read the rest
Photographer Pablo Iglesias Maurer found idyllic promotional photos of now-abandoned resorts in the Poconos, painstakingly found the exact spot where the shot was taken, and matched them flawlessly a series of gifs. Read the rest
Heather Dockray and a band of amateur queer ghost hunters rented Trump's childhood home on Airbnb and found some creepy stuff, which of course begs the question: were they non-professionals seeking queer ghosts, or were they seeking queer non-professional ghosts? Read the rest
The Push is a short, taut psychological horror film about how a woman's life unravels after she witnesses a stranger get pushed off a subway platform onto the tracks. Read the rest