Surveillance stickers are a relatively common item in the THS-era.
They are used by various naturalists, scientists, engineers, hobbyists, and bird-watchers, to name a few. The same technology also has less innocent applications.
A typical surveillance sticker is a flat, flexible camera. A very commonly encountered model takes the form of an orange 3 centimetre triangle with truncated corners. Models intended for more clandestine applications will take other forms. Some models will change colour or even their texture to closer mimic the surface on which they are placed.
The notice that advises you that you may be under surveillance may be one of the surveillance devices itself!
A typical surveillance sticker has a fixed focal length camera and is capable of both transmitting or recording, or a combination of the two. Many models also include a membrane or foil microphone.
Some versions have an internal battery that may either be rechargeable or single use. Other models use standard AA-Flex or A-Flex cells. Many models also include photo-cells to prolong battery life if there is sufficient light.
A surveillance sticker is inactive until the backing sheet is peeled off. The camera will then begin to operate after a few seconds.
Surveillance stickers are limited devices. The camera has a visual range similar to that of a human eye. In low light images will be low-resolution. In very low light the camera will be unable to operate and most models go into sleep mode until illumination improves.
Some users exploit this feature. A surveillance sticker placed in a dark cupboard will not record until someone opens the door.
Very bright light sources, lasers etc may temporarily dazzle or blind a surveillance sticker.
Typically the cameras on a surveillance sticker are programmed to remain inactive unless triggered by movement. Similarly, the sound recording system reacts to sudden or new sounds, and will filter out constant or regular background noise.
The sound recording system of most surveillance stickers is optimized to record human speech. Despite this, clear recordings are often only possible within a few metres of the sticker.
Stickers may continue to capture sounds while a camera has insufficient light to film.
The limited volume of a sticker means that it has a restricted broadcast range. In practice, obstacles such as trees, walls or moving traffic limit the practical range to only a few metres.
To compensate for this a relay device may be mounted within range of one or more stickers. Typically this is about the size and shape of a cigarette packet. Alternatively, a recording device stores feed from the nearby stickers. Often the relay and the recorder is the same device, and can be switched between modes remotely.
A typical relay/recorder is able to manage the feed from up to eight surveillance stickers.
A recorder/relay may be conspicuous, or might be tampered with if left unguarded. In such a situation, a sticker stores its feed until an authorized recorder or compatible device such as a wearable or VII comes into range and triggers a download.
Dummy surveillance stickers may be employed. Some models will even appear electrically active if “pinged”.
It is said that if you can see a surveillance sticker, there is a high probability that it is in fact a dummy. Attempting to interfere with it may bring you into the range of several real surveillance devices!