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The Security of Security Cameras

In most cities around the world, chances are, you're being watched. Security cameras are in banks, subway stations, even in people's apartment buildings. People may realize they're being filmed. But do they know who's watching?

In Tokyo's bustling neighbourhood of Harajuku, cameras are everywhere. It doesn't seem to bother most people.

"They're useful when an incident happens. So they're better to have them than not," says a passer-by. "I don't really pay attention," another says.

But they might not realize just who's watching them. It turns out that it's not only the owners of some of the cameras who can view them. It's anyone around the world.

Nearly 30,000 security cameras from streets and buildings around the world have been available on an overseas-based website. They can be viewed anytime.

Takayuki Sugiura, CEO of Netagent, says "There are more than 3 million surveillance cameras in operation in Japan. This website claims images taken by over 6,000 such cameras are available to the public."

The website is raising concerns over safety and privacy. "In parks or on streets you think you are alone but somebody could be watching, so it does get a little scary," says a man on the street. "My privacy is not protected. I can't go outside anymore," says another.

A woman discovered that the camera on her building was hacked this week. She reported the incident to her security company immediately and then had it removed. "The images have been online without my permission. It's so scary. It's dangerous that the footage has been freely accessed from around the world and nothing has been done to stop it," she says.

Indoor footage is available as well. There's footage of a waiting room in a hospital, and one believed to have been taken at a dental clinic. It shows a patient on a chair with his mouth open.

Most of the footage is believed to have been captured by what are known as "network cameras." They are capable of sending images over the internet. Their footage can normally only be seen by the owner, who needs a user ID and password. But the website shows it is possible for them to be hacked, especially if passwords are not made strong enough.

Security experts warn against leaving passwords at their default setting and being familiar with the technology to help protect everyone's privacy.

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