The FBI can turn on your webcam without you knowing

It seems that the FBI is also quite capable of hacking into your PC to access your webcam and other information without you even knowing, providing of course the malicious software is loaded onto the target PC.

Speaking to the Washington Post, Marcus Thomas, the former assistant director of the FBI's Operational Technology Division said they have been able to do so "without triggering the light that lets users know it is recording" for years now.

Thomas also pointed out that the technology is "mainly" used for terrorist operations or the "most serious" of criminal investigations. 

The report cites an incident where the FBI tracked a suspect called "Mo" who made a series of threats to detonate bombs at universities and airports across the United States last year. The FBI hacker team was able to create a piece of software that used Yahoo Mail as the delivery method and was designed to log the sites he visited, as well as the general whereabouts of the computer.

Although the FBI did manage to gather a ton of information on Mo, it's probably not as useful as they will have hoped, given that he is now believed to be in Iran. Still, if he ever does attempt a return to the US, at least the FBI will have plenty of info about him - although the means by which some of that intel was gathered will surely give some pause for thought for other users worried about government surveillance getting out of hand

Source: Washington Post via TechEye | Information being accessed image by Shutterstock

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I don't see what the big deal is, if the government of any country wants to screw you I'm sure they'll find a way, strictly legal or otherwise. Realistically I don't want someone invading my privacy, this really isn't limited to computer activity but if I'm changing or having awesome sex with my fiance I'd really rather not have government officials get a free show, however I'm not naive. If they want my info, they'll get it. Just live with it, it's not going away no matter how much anyone bitches about it. It's not like the government will be like "oh wow, we have found in our new reports the citizens of this country do not like being spied on! Oh well guess we can't do that anymore...darn. Lets just destroy our new multi billion $$ building that monitors the web and stop recording all phone calls today!"

So here we go again... I guess there are a lot of idiots that will open my_hot_pic.jpg.exe from anyone!

And using Yahoo mail?

I wonder what OS/software combinations are vulnerable? I have my webcam driver blacklisted and mic disabled, never actually use them.

Wonder if anyone still thinks America's the land of the free?

yeah! it's a bit old... hacker just don't say it to the public or make it noticable unless they've been spotted. unlike the FBI, they are known world wide, every move they make, it become logged!

What they are doing is illegal without a warrant. That Patriot act in itself is illegal. The only way they get away with that is because it has not been challenged in a court.

We should be allowed to view the FBI webcams and any cameras they have on the personal computers at home, along with any of their other family members... without them knowing about it of course. Its only fair.

I guarantee you they wouldn't like that.

Said this before when it comes to privacy concerns, but I don't think the government really cares what you do at home when you're alone. I used to be completely against all this until I saw how ridiculous people act when defending their privacy. It's almost like conspiracy theorist, they have to conjure up some kind of dark twisted plot and make things sound bad and downright evil.

Now I'm not saying that I want the government to track people, but I think people take it too far when it comes to privacy. Is it a big concern? Yes, but that doesn't mean people have to come up with all this BS on what the government does with the data and who they track.

There is no conspiracy theorist ideas going on here, its all fact. The Government lies to us, the FBI lies to us, they even have people put in jail over outright lies. Its all fact.

Your a fool if you actually think they only do this for "terrorists".

I somehow beleive that saying ""without triggering the light that lets users know it is recording" for years now" is exactly the hurdle they are facing right now.
Last i used a laptop anti-theft software...it clearly lit on the webcam light when it took a picture,and ;screenshots of desktop,files,location.
If the light is hardwired to light up when it gets current to the webcam,there is no way to override this. Prove me wrong and post my pic on the reply. I will have my mouth wide open.

jesseinsf said,
They said you need software on the computer with the webcam to work.

There was a flash exploit last year that could do this.

SO yeah, having flash on your system is enough, if you get sent to the right link.

FYI .... it's not the FBI turning on cameras, its me!

all of you should be ashamed of what you're doing on the internet, playin with your private areas in front of the world!

Turn the webcam on without turning the light on? Yea right. On 10+ years old equipment maybe.
The light is on the same power circuit as the optics in most modern implementations (at least in apple and HP notebooks it is, I have repaired enough of them to know) If the light is off, then so is the webcam.
It's not the same for the builtin mic though, it can be powered on independently without triggering any warning.

And this is why 99% of webcams have a little LED that shows when it's in use. Wow, what a whole bunch of nothing this is. But if the FBI really want to watch me getting changed, fair play.

An old trojan known as sub7 would let you do this. You could print stuff to their printer, view their webcam, etc.

Another excellent reason to not have a built-in webcam on your laptop. If you absolutely must have a camera, buy an external one. Use it when needed, then unplug it when not needed. Or, as a somewhat tacky solution, just put a piece of black electrical tape over the lens when not in use.

This is not news..... Not to me at least.... I've known that your PC, phone, probably even TV and other electronic devices, can be used to spy on you. Why do you think they have programs giving out free cell phones to people who can't afford them (or don't have them)?? GPS tracking, voice surveillance and video recording. It doesn't take a genius to figure it out... ALL these products are regulated by the US Govt (and other govts in other countries of course.... I'm sure they're all doing it)..... This is just the world we live in...

Believe it or not, your government fears you. Why? The overt answer of course is "terrorism."..... The COVERT answer is that they fear uprisings like in Egypt, Syria, etc.... That's also why the 2 party system dominates in America- If the majority of people are completely polarized in political beliefs, how can they possibly unite together to overthrow a government that's clearly out to eff them over?

Reverend Spam said,
This is not news..... Not to me at least.... I've known that your PC, phone, probably even TV and other electronic devices, can be used to spy on you. Why do you think they have programs giving out free cell phones to people who can't afford them (or don't have them)?? GPS tracking, voice surveillance and video recording. It doesn't take a genius to figure it out... ALL these products are regulated by the US Govt (and other govts in other countries of course.... I'm sure they're all doing it)..... This is just the world we live in...

Believe it or not, your government fears you. Why? The overt answer of course is "terrorism."..... The COVERT answer is that they fear uprisings like in Egypt, Syria, etc.... That's also why the 2 party system dominates in America- If the majority of people are completely polarized in political beliefs, how can they possibly unite together to overthrow a government that's clearly out to eff them over?

Whilst I don't necessarily disagree with your generally sentiment, your words here are very typical of the melodramatics that are inevitably involved with this kind of stuff.

For example You start off by saying "This is not news..... Not to me at least" in an effort to assert that you are in the "know", but in a pompous kind of way. Then, without really elaborating on any of your examples, you continue down the rabbit hole, eventually rounding it off by saying "It doesn't take a genius to figure it out...", which is essentially a back handed way of saying "you're an idiot if you don't see this as true", a cheap tactic to bully the reader into agreeing.

All in all you don't really say a whole lot here beyond just blabbing about stuff you think is probably true, at least that's how it comes off.

Some laptop cameras used to come with a sliding cover that would enable the hardware when slid over to expose the lense.

Ahh the old days.

I just keep a piece of black tape over the camera & microphone unless I am using skype.
Didn't anyone read the story a few months back where a school issued laptop was at some students house and the camera was turned on while the student was undressing?

Just put your tin foil hat over the camera,

I'm more concern that security services have nothing better to do than watch me...

You do realize now that all those "conspiracy realists" were proven 100% correct and a myriad of these concerns, that your "tinfoil hat" comment only makes YOU look bad right? It's that very attitude from so many nodding dolts over the years that allowed this to happen in the first place.

Spicoli said,
The entire planet knows spying goes on. The conspiracy theory is anyone being remotely interested in spying on you.

Exactly. To many people suffering from "delusions of grandeur".

Seriously doubt it.

I use Linux. They would have to first install a WORKING webcam driver into my system. (a fact I would appreciate, thankyouverymuch!)

markjensen said,
Seriously doubt it.

I use Linux. They would have to first install a WORKING webcam driver into my system. (a fact I would appreciate, thankyouverymuch!)

ROFL!!! (I've never had any issues with my Webcams in Linux but realize there may be specific issues with specific devices).

If I recall, Linux has trouble with iSight, but I guess you can blame that on Apple

P.S. I haven't run Linux of any flavor on my 2011 iMac for a long time.. maybe it is working with iSight, but no ideas

Purchased a new laptop recently? Found one without a camera?

Thanks for using your own self as a yard stick for everyone else.

I guess you had met everyone that uses a laptop and conducted your own ethnography study to determine that like you, no one uses a web cam any more? I guess that "using" a webcam was the point of the article.

That gets a big "duh." If you can turn it on so can any other software running on your system. Suppressing the lights depends on if they're software controllable and most of them are.

Ok we get it, you're a little silly nobody. Problem is, there are a few other people in the world. Collecting data on everyone, all the time, pretty much means they have leverage on everyone IF they ever decide they need to mess with you, it's easy. Ok? get it now?

Hahaiah said,
Ok we get it, you're a little silly nobody. Problem is, there are a few other people in the world. Collecting data on everyone, all the time, pretty much means they have leverage on everyone IF they ever decide they need to mess with you, it's easy. Ok? get it now?
not to sound condescending, but everyone commenting and worried about this is a nobody too.

So you shouldn't expect any privacy because you are a "nobody" ?

Or you shouldn't get upset about the implications of this because you are a "nobody" ?

Hahaiah said,
Ok we get it, you're a little silly nobody. Problem is, there are a few other people in the world. Collecting data on everyone, all the time, pretty much means they have leverage on everyone IF they ever decide they need to mess with you, it's easy. Ok? get it now?
Who was this aimed at? If it was me, get a grip, I was joking. Not about making the farting sounds though.

ramesees said,
So you shouldn't expect any privacy because you are a "nobody" ?

Or you shouldn't get upset about the implications of this because you are a "nobody" ?

You shouldn't expect privacy ever. Privacy is your responsibility and not a right.

Fritzly said,
In North Korea....

At least they don't lie about it and try to distract with sleight of hand techniques like distracting their population with reality TV and shiny things to keep them always within electronic reach.

The electronics you carry are the new security anklet.
Unless you know when to take it off.

Fritzly said,

In North Korea....

Sorry, it's everywhere. If you leave the curtains open, you do not have the right to tell someone not to look in the window. Privacy is not a right but something you have to secure for yourself.

I will take the bite and reply to your completely off the subject comparison:
If my window is right on the street of course I cannot forbid people passing by to look, unless I close the curtains of course, but if in order to see through it you have to walk in my property, A.K.A. trespassing, is a different matter.
And guess what? If I spot someone in my property I do not necessarily have to "secure it by myself" shooting that person, I can call the Police as well....

torrentthief said,

They can probably still listen to you via microphone though.

The microphone on my webcam is disabled. I have one microphone, and it's through a headset, and can only be enabled when the headset is active.

I remember using "remote access" (i.e. trojans) software such as NetBus back in 99 to do the same thing on friends computers and freak them out. Could also take screenshots, redirect keyboard input and output, open and close the CD tray, execute program, upload and download files, etc. Hardly anything new.

rippleman said,
i am surprised some of you feel that the FBI would want to spy on you...

I am afraid you are missing the concept of controlling the population of a Country; the concept does not target individuals but the masses.

Fritzly said,

I am afraid you are missing the concept of controlling the population of a Country; the concept does not target individuals but the masses.

No need for a reply, but think about what you said for a second. And think of how, if roles were reversed, how YOU would go about controlling what people think by seeing them through their webcam. Might be a bit more impossible then you assume

Hahaiah said,
I'm surprised you so completely miss the point of all this.

I actually feel there is no point. The point has only been added by people who are scared/unreasoning/paranoid type individuals.

DaveGreen93 said,
"The FBI hacker team was able to create a piece of software that used Yahoo Mail as the delivery method"

Why am I not surprised?

Marissa Mayer is giggling, saying "yeah, and we helped them" hehehehe

Good thing my camera has a slider to close the lens

Anyway, this has been possible for some time. My colleague in the security team demoed this a few years ago.

But with Sub7, are you saying the web cam light does not turn on?

Ahh... miss the good old day with Sub7, where you can open their cd rom drive on a whim

I don't think webcams even had lights on them back then lol.

Back in the days when most of the UK had dialup internet, or a broadband connection directly connected to the PC with no firewall, antivirus and an un-patched Windows 98 / ME.

Actually, I think back in the day, a lot of people did not have web cam then.

I am fairly certain during Sub7 era, laptop with built-in webcam was an add-on/premium feature

My friends did for MSN Messenger in the early 2000's, well i say MSN i believe you had to use Netmeeting, which you could invite people to from MSN to use a webcam. People i knew then had tower PC's, laptops were simply too expensive.

Is this story still going around.... aka "If your computer is infected with malware, a remote party can do stuff to your computer" this is no different then some personal protection/tracking software for your phone that can report GPS or take video and screenshots. If you are infected with malware of any sorts you've already lost the battle. We will see this story again next year with a different 3 letter agency in the title and body. Probably the ACLU behind it to keep everyone afraid. The FBI doesn't sit around caring about you fapping to tumblr or 4chan. They have much more important targets to deal with.

"providing of course the malicious software is loaded onto the target PC"
In that case, not only the FBI. But great title!

They were able to inject it through Yahoo Mail.. if that was at server level, it's a little more sophisticated than some .exe on the interwebs.

Mr.XXIV said,
Or the Logitech C920/930? Our lights turn on whether the mic or the video themselves are on.

same webcam i have but i actually keep my folded up when its not in use as there is covers over them, so unless the fbi figured out how to undo the cover =]

Mr.XXIV said,
I'll be honest, this is the first time I've ever skipped on an article.
Today wasn't a good day to skip it

Mr.XXIV said,
I'll be honest, this is the first time I've ever skipped on an article.

And today you've learnt an important lesson.

DKAngel said,
my webcam lights up when its on

"the former assistant director of the FBI's Operational Technology Division said they have been able to do so "without triggering the light that lets users know it is recording" for years now."

InsaneNutter said,

"the former assistant director of the FBI's Operational Technology Division said they have been able to do so "without triggering the light that lets users know it is recording" for years now."

But his lights up! there is no way they can do this without this little stupid light to show activity... no way!

DKAngel said,
my webcam lights up when its on

If your webcam is built in to your computer/phone or what ever, it's always on.
However, it's just not being used by software at the moment. The driver software controls when the light is turned on when an app or other software tries to use the webcam.
If software (fbi malware) tells the driver that the light is already on when intact its not, then the webcam can be activated without the user knowing it's in use.

It was a huge problem when broadband was becoming more common and people were using webcams. People could unplug the usb connection and the webcam would be off. Later we had flip down covers for most webcams built into them so you could leave them plugged in... now we have 'lights' lol, and even webcam's build into laptops.

Wasn't there a case last year where a school was using the same kind of remote access to turn on the laptops webcam's of the students without them knowing about it? yeah... kinda scary.

Best thing you can do if you're worried about it, is to create a physical barrier with a sticker over the webcam lens or unplug the webcam when you're not using it.

In the past there have been a lot of trojans, such as subseven (anyone remember these?) that could take over a computer, including capturing desktop screenshots, streaming desktop, browsing all files on your computer, and as the FBI are doing, activating webcams remotely... among other things.

Yet, because we don't value our privacy anymore, parents buy kids laptops for their children that happily live in their bedrooms... heck, most adults even have laptop or PC setup on their bedrooms these days... and smart TVs in the living room, kinect, Playstation eye camera and ... we can't even check if these are in use and just have to trust that they're not being left open for the FBI/NSA etc to use.

DKAngel said,
my webcam lights up when its on

i really should have put the /s on the end but im glad it made people laugh

sagum said,

If your webcam is built in to your computer/phone or what ever, it's always on.
However, it's just not being used by software at the moment. The driver software controls when the light is turned on when an app or other software tries to use the webcam.


It really depends on how the camera is designed. I don't doubt that there are some cameras that are constantly running, but that's not the case for all of them. With some designs, when the camera is active, the light gets power. And when the camera is not active the light does not get power. In that case, there is no software way around it.

Either way though, it's best to remain paranoid and close the camera cover when you're not using it.

Its somewhat funny - I mean all the light talk here. Some webcams have the light built into the circuity of camera therefore is not software controlled at all. Not even FBI can bypass this

Torolol said,
how about kinect?
it is the next generation of webcam ...

Microsoft has assured us this will not happen. So clearly MS will prevent the FBI and refuse FISA court orders for the NSA to do this. Just trust them. /s

Torolol said,
how about kinect?
it is the next generation of webcam ...

If you are truly concerned, just buy a $5 cover for it, they make them. A post-it or tape also works. (Notice that for this to work, the PC has to be infected with malware, when have you heard about an Xbox getting malware? Never, right?)


Same for laptops, just in case you might have unknown malware, cover the camera.


What gets me is that 99% of everyone that complains about the Kinect has a smartphone with one or more cameras that are easier to access and activate with the owner's knowledge and are carried into more intimate and private locations than a Kinect.

Until people give up their iOS or Android smartphones that CAN be easily compromised, they probably should worry about a device that has never had malware or spy software, like the Xbox or WP.

It is funny how Kinect is getting a lot of flack about this spying thing, but they fail to realize that laptop camera predates the Kinect by more than two decades, and it is on every laptop (and smartphone) being sold in the market. Kinect is only in your living room.

Then again, if you have nothing to hide; then why even be worried about it.

For the benefit of the few that actually accept your argument, allow me to point out a couple of things. First, the phone in my pocket is normally in my pocket or lying face up/down charging somewhere, it's not pointed directly at me 24/7. The Xbone is the NSA's wet dream. An actual camera (a damned good one) and microphone (also good) with software that can actually recognize individual users with either and it's actually pointed at you and your family 24/7. A hood is great, but the mic is still live. Unplugging is the only real safeguard. Of course, your phone is also compromised, and people should by wary of both, it's a different world....some just haven't woke up yet.

Hahaiah said,
First, the phone in my pocket is normally in my pocket or lying face up/down charging somewhere, it's not pointed directly at me 24/7.

Yes, but which are you most likely to have near you.. your console, or your phone? Doubtful the bad guys are going to be building bombs and playing video games at the same time, nor is an X1 a typical must-have for the bad-guy-lair-kit. People tend to take their phones everywhere, complete with GPS tracking mind you, and it's the audio recording that's most likely to get you.

Max Norris said,
I'd be more concerned about your cellphone... almost everybody has one.
My phone is usually in my pocket so the cameras are useless as Kinect has a wide view of your living room

As for phones I'd be more worried about them getting into the microphone not the camera

Rudy said,
My phone is usually in my pocket so the cameras are useless as Kinect has a wide view of your living room
As for phones I'd be more worried about them getting into the microphone not the camera

Right, I mentioned audio above in another post, I said nothing about the phone's camera, just the phone itself, and it's much more likely to be with you at all times, not just while you're watching TV.

Hahaiah said,
The Xbone is the NSA's wet dream. An actual camera (a damned good one) and microphone (also good) with software that can actually recognize individual users with either and it's actually pointed at you and your family 24/7.A hood is great, but the mic is still live. Unplugging is the only real safeguard. Of course, your phone is also compromised, and people should by wary of both, it's a different world....some just haven't woke up

Wake up! Kinect is not pointed at you 24/7. You could at least turn off Kinect from Xbox if you are that paranoid. With the mobile phone, you cannot turn the microphone off.

Max Norris said,
I'd be more concerned about your cellphone... almost everybody has one.

Really? If you're talking about cameras the camera on my phone is showing the inside of my pocket like 90% of my day. I'd much rather the government see the inside of my pocket then what's going on in my living room. As for mics the FBI using the mics and GPS on cell phones is old news and unless you're going to give up on cell phones entirely it's something you're stuck with. Only one console is heavily invested in cameras and if fact you pay more to get it out of the box so you still have options without just giving up on game consoles. We don't have to just accept this as inevitable and we vote with our wallets.

In addition, this is the price that we all pay for having these kind of technology in our lives. Unfortunately, just because you might not use it, it doesn't mean that the government cannot track or listen to you.

Edited by RommelS, Dec 9 2013, 4:39pm :

I'm more than 1000% sure this backdoor is baked in to the new games systems and to consumer versions of computer operating systems.

No need to download anything anymore, unless you are using WinXP

RommelS said,

Wake up! Kinect is not pointed at you 24/7. You could at least turn off Kinect from Xbox if you are that paranoid. With the mobile phone, you cannot turn the microphone off.

Most people spend a lot of time in their living rooms which the Kinect is pointed straight at them

RommelS said,
It is funny how Kinect is getting a lot of flack about this spying thing, but they fail to realize that laptop camera predates the Kinect by more than two decades, and it is on every laptop (and smartphone) being sold in the market. Kinect is only in your living room.

Point taken, but you exaggerated a bit. "More than two decades (before Kinect)" means before 1990. I know of no laptop that old with a camera. I don't even think desktop based webcam accessories where around at that time. Heck, computers of that age could not even process real-time video.

sphbecker said,

Point taken, but you exaggerated a bit. "More than two decades (before Kinect)" means before 1990. I know of no laptop that old with a camera. I don't even think desktop based webcam accessories where around at that time. Heck, computers of that age could not even process real-time video.

The first commercial webcam was sold in 1994 by Connectix (now Logitech). So yeah, maybe I should have said, almost two decades. I guess you didn't do video with modem and ISDN line?

That being said, Telecommunications Reform Act was introduced 1996. It allowed cable and telecommunication companies to provide high speed internet. So in a couple of years, the technology that the government will be using to spy on people was set.

Max Norris said,

Yes, but which are you most likely to have near you.. your console, or your phone? Doubtful the bad guys are going to be building bombs and playing video games at the same time, nor is an X1 a typical must-have for the bad-guy-lair-kit. People tend to take their phones everywhere, complete with GPS tracking mind you, and it's the audio recording that's most likely to get you.

You see marketing works! This is the exact nonsense governments use to start wars, rob you of your liberties and a myriad of other violations. FAKE TERRORISM. Isn't it interesting how most thinking people are a hell of lot more fearful of there govt than "terrorists"? Hell, they are the danger (Thanks walter).

Mobius Enigma said,

If you are truly concerned, just buy a $5 cover for it, they make them. A post-it or tape also works. (Notice that for this to work, the PC has to be infected with malware, when have you heard about an Xbox getting malware? Never, right?)


Same for laptops, just in case you might have unknown malware, cover the camera.


What gets me is that 99% of everyone that complains about the Kinect has a smartphone with one or more cameras that are easier to access and activate with the owner's knowledge and are carried into more intimate and private locations than a Kinect.

Until people give up their iOS or Android smartphones that CAN be easily compromised, they probably should worry about a device that has never had malware or spy software, like the Xbox or WP.

I know a few people with tape over their cameras!

Asmodai said,

Really? If you're talking about cameras the camera on my phone is showing the inside of my pocket like 90% of my day. I'd much rather the government see the inside of my pocket then what's going on in my living room. As for mics the FBI using the mics and GPS on cell phones is old news and unless you're going to give up on cell phones entirely it's something you're stuck with. Only one console is heavily invested in cameras and if fact you pay more to get it out of the box so you still have options without just giving up on game consoles. We don't have to just accept this as inevitable and we vote with our wallets.

Some people spend good 3 hours on instergram, facebook, google+, foursqure, youtube, twitter etc. so what about the 99%? yeah, even if was in your pocket you still got mic, device imei (this is basically you/your electronic ID) and gps for tracking locations. and your google/apple/microsoft/bb account too!

Kenny Kanashimi Chu said,

Some people spend good 3 hours on instergram, facebook, google+, foursqure, youtube, twitter etc. so what about the 99%? yeah, even if was in your pocket you still got mic, device imei (this is basically you/your electronic ID) and gps for tracking locations. and your google/apple/microsoft/bb account too!


I covered the mic and GPS in my post, did you not read the whole thing? The point is that a mic is an essential component of a phone so you can't exactly buy a phone without a mic so you either have to accept that it has one or not use a cell phone at all. Likewise a GPS I believe is now required on all cell phones because of the 911 laws (so they can locate you if you dial 911) so again as a consumer your only choice to avoid GPS on a cell phone is not to have one. It's a different beast on consoles with open mics when the system is "off" and cameras included in the box. These things aren't required yet and we as consumers can still "vote" for or against them buy deciding to buy or not to buy things that include them. We consumers already had a pretty significant win in getting MS to remove the REQUIREMENT that they Kinect be connected in order for the Xbone to work. Now at least you have a choice of disconnecting it but that wasn't MS's original plan. Of course if you plan on disconnecting it I'm not sure why you're paying the extra $100 to get the console if you're removing the major difference. I guess for some maybe the HDMI pass through is worth an extra $100? If the "next-gen" consoles were backwards compatible then at least that would make sense because the extra $100 would totally be worth keeping all your 360 games but they're not.

RommelS said,

The first commercial webcam was sold in 1994 by Connectix (now Logitech). So yeah, maybe I should have said, almost two decades. I guess you didn't do video with modem and ISDN line?

That being said, Telecommunications Reform Act was introduced 1996. It allowed cable and telecommunication companies to provide high speed internet. So in a couple of years, the technology that the government will be using to spy on people was set.

What you actually said "laptop cameras." It is still a VERY long way off before the first laptops started shipping with cameras, I think Apple may have been the first in the early 2000's.