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Russian site streams live video of Canadian living rooms, daycares

Children speak to each other in an unidentified Ontario day care classroom in an image livestreamed by a Web site in Moscow.
Children speak to each other in an unidentified Ontario day care classroom in an image livestreamed by a Web site in Moscow. INSECAM.ORG

Over 500 security cameras watching Canadian homes, workplaces, churches and daycares are being livestreamed by a site based in Moscow, Global News has learned.

Insecam.org streams security cameras that still have their factory-default passwords, an FAQ explains.

The FAQ says that feeds will be taken down on request, but warns that that won’t solve the underlying problem of the camera not being secured.

Many of the Canadian cameras are watching front doors, industrial workshops or parking lots. Two watch livestock in barns. At least three show the interiors of churches.

READ: Does your phone help build Google’s traffic maps? (And is that bad?)

On the other hand, others show more private moments.

Two feeds showed daycare classrooms until they were taken down on Friday. One was in Ontario and the other in Quebec.

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The Quebec camera, identified as being in Montreal, showed what seemed to be an activity room used for only part of the day, where children sprawled on the floor or played with toy cars.

The Ontario one, identified as being in Mississauga, showed a dozen or so small children supervised by three adults in a daycare classroom. On Thursday afternoon, Global News watched as a young woman in a coat picked up a boy in a T-shirt, discussed something with a teacher, and eventually took him out of the frame.

The locations may not be precise. One location identified as being in Montreal had an Ontario flag clearly visible, and another, identified as Toronto, looks much more like British Columbia.

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“What is going through the minds of the administrators of these webcams?” asks former Ontario privacy commissioner Ann Cavoukian. “Why wouldn’t they think that through? Do they think that there is zero risk — that nobody else is going to access this data?”

“This data can be compromised and used in ways that were never intended. And when you’re talking about medical clinics and children, that’s appalling.”

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(A report last week showed a live cam of a medical facility in Quebec, with patients walking around in hospital gowns.)

READ: Every move you make: Privacy expert wary as insurers track drivers

On Thursday and Friday, Global News watched as:

  • A woman in Quebec used a stationary bike in a basement exercise room.
  • A man in Fort McMurray, Alta., had breakfast in his kitchen.
  • People in Red Deer waited in what appeared to be a government office and talked to clerks behind a counter.
  • A cat sitting in a sunbeam washed its paws slowly in a home in Saskatchewan.
  • Dogs in a boarding kennel in Nova Scotia played in a fenced yard.
  • A woman in a living room in Victoria talked to a cat.
  • A hall in eastern Ontario was organized for a memorial service.

READ: What a map we can’t show you tells you about your phone’s location settings

If people in private homes don’t bother to secure their cameras, that’s their affair, Cavoukian says. But those who run facilities like schools, daycares and medical clinics have a responsibility to protect people’s privacy, especially children.

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“I’m sure it’s not on purpose, but that’s no longer an acceptable excuse.”

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“In this day and age, you have to have some idea that technology can be used for unauthorized purposes.  You can’t go blindly into the use of technology and use the excuse ‘Oh, I didn’t know.’ Well, you’ve got to learn. We can no longer accept the answer ‘I wasn’t aware of that.’”

Insecam did not respond to an interview request.

READ: Shodan: The search engine that lets you browse vulnerable baby monitors, webcams

Can you identify the two daycares in this story? Let us know.