Webcams are great if you want to get to know a person better, but what if the person you are talking to is recording your webcam? Is that possible? Can the same person publish that recording online? The answers to these questions are yes, and very easily so.
Recording an individual's webcam and posting it online without the recorded person's consent goes by different names, such as ‘cam baiting’, ‘booby baiting’, etc. The purpose of this article is not to be a guide to cam baiting, but to create awareness of the practice.
The who and what of cam baiting
Cam baiting is mostly practiced by men talking unsuspecting women into showing certain body parts, having them undress in front of their webcam; while this itself is not a criminal offense, posting the recordings online without the recorded person's consent is.
Baiting plus-size women
Plus-size women are often targets of cam baiters because it is the baiter's belief that they have “a low self-esteem and are therefore easily manipulated”. An often used method is to tell a plus-size woman that she should be lucky someone even talks to them.
How cam baiting works
Webcams are recorded using so-called ‘screen recording’ software, which nowadays often comes as part of the software suite shipped with the webcam. Either an area (such as a window) or the entire screen (full screen) can be recorded by the software.
Below is an overview of how cam baiters generally bait a victim.
- A cam baiter starts a conversation with a woman;
- The cam baiter asks for the woman's IM (instant messenger) address;
- Once chatting in an instant messenger the cam baiter may:
- Tell the person they are unattractive and that by undressing they can prove themselves being attractive;
- Tell the person they should be lucky someone talks to them at all and should give something back in return;
- First employ one of the above techniques and then say that if they don't show more they will publish what they have already;
- The cam baiter then either continues the conversation, ends or abruptly aborts it;
- The recorded webcam is then published without the recorded person's consent.
If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. ~ Sun Tzu - The Art of War
The victim's victim
While the victims of this act are obvious, in the bigger picture it also contributes to an increasingly unfriendly and unsafe Internet. Well meaning people are victimized for the people they sincerely want to commune with have become suspicious and damaged.
Courtesy and respect
If you have ever engaged in cam baiting yourself, I ask that you consider the following and change your ways: If you treat a person with respect, you will receive the same in return. But if you violate that respect, you really deserve nothing in return.
When you engage in a communication with someone there must be an unspoken understanding that you treat the other person with courtesy and respect. These are the unwritten laws of communication, setting yourself apart from the uncivilized.
Breach of Privacy
Countries around the world have laws protecting its citizens privacy. If you have ever engaged in cam baiting another person, ask yourself whether laws really even matter. Publishing someone's recording without their consent is a severe breach of privacy!
Recording your desktop is not committing a crime. However, where cam baiting becomes a criminal offense, is when the recording, or part of it, is published or distributed by the cam baiter without the recorded person's consent.
The best advice I can give (potential) victims of cam baiting is to simply not undress in front of a webcam. But I know - especially when trust is established between two people - that this is sometimes difficult, and even though you know it's dangerous, you still do it.
Maybe you want to ‘express certain aspects of yourself’. I know that's just a fancy way of saying “flashing” in front of a webcam. But not doing these things at all is the only way you can be sure you won't end up chasing some webmaster to remove your recorded video.
If you want to still do these things but be safe about them, follow these steps.
- If you are engaged in a webcam conversation, tell the person you will be right back and close the conversation.
- Change clothes, just wear something completely different. Also cover up any birthmarks, scars, or (another) other part(s) of yourself that is/are visible when in a clothed webcam conversation.
- Start the webcam again and proceed as you normally would, but do not show your face simultaneously!
- When finished, stop the webcam, and either change back to the clothes you wore before or put on new ones, once again fully dressed.
- Resume the webcam conversation as normal.
If you follow these steps a cam baiter can not create a video (using several clips of you) used to identify you; in the (clothed) webcam conversation you had all body parts (except your face) covered up, and once you exposed those body parts your face was covered up. If the cam baiter uses several clips of you to make a longer video, for the viewer of that video you might as well be a completely different person in the different clips.
The reason for covering up birthmarks and scars (such as a frontal neck scar) is because if those are visible in a clothed webcam conversation and they are also visible in an exposed webcam conversation then that can be used to identify you.