Wireless Intercoms
& Baby Monitors

Home wireless intercoms are transmitter and receiver sets that use home AC wiring for two purposes. First, they derive power for the units from the AC current. Second, they use the same AC wiring as a form of antenna to transmit and receive the signals from one unit to another. This is called "carrier current" technology.

Many wireless intercom owners may not know that their intercom broadcasts beyond the limits of their home. The signals can be picked up accidentally or deliberately by anyone nearby who has a wireless intercom operating on the same frequency or anyone with a frequency scanner looking for that type of emission. Moreover, the carrier current signals can be carried over great distances by wire. The power companies use the same carrier current technology to obtain information that allows them to operate "load management" or "kilowatchers" systems to manage the power to large groups of homes.

Baby monitors also amount to self-installed bugging devices that transmit signals well outside the confines of the home where they are placed. Some are hooked into the home’s AC wiring and use the same carrier current technology discussed above. Others transmit on common radio frequencies. The baby monitors are very effective in alerting parents to crying or other sounds in another part of their home. They provide peace of mind for new parents, but the potential privacy issues need to be recognized.

bullet   Many hotels and motels offer a version of the baby monitor to guests who wish to use the club or guest services, while still minding the toddlers asleep in their hotel room. This service is an integral part of the hospitality features incorporated into the hotel phone system. That means it is possible from a central location to activate the microphone within the telephone set within any room at any time. Consider the implications of this built-in surveillance system for government or business employees who think they can have confidential discussions in their hotel room.

Reference
Paul F. Barry & Charles L. Wilkinson (Trident Data Systems), "Invasion of Privacy and 90s Technologies," Security Awareness Bulletin, No. 2-96. Richmond, VA: Department of Defense Security Institute, August 1996.

 

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