Last night I was on a plane and found myself uncontrollably drawn to reading the SkyMall catalog. As I flipped through, I was shocked by a trend I was seeing in the products -- for every body shaper, ugly lawn sculpture and iPod dock, there was a spy product.
Apparently, the people who advertise in SkyMall believe that air travelers have a raging desire to spy on their family, friends and co-workers. This catalog was just packed with the stuff.
I shoved the SkyMall catalog into my bag -- they let you do that, you know -- and, when I got to my parents' house this morning, after spending my requisite 45 minutes fixing all of their computer issues, I scanned in 11 of the ads for spy products. Here are the 11 shadiest spy products in SkyMall. Read it quick -- you really never know who's watching.
The camera watch. While I'm impressed that they can fit a camcorder into a watch now, I feel like this product is flawed. See... it's a fairly ugly watch. And to get the video you'd want, you'd need to keep it out from under your sleeve and, somehow, near eye level of the people you're filming. So as you sit there, forearm up around eye level, slowly panning your wrist back and forth, showing off your cheap-looking watch... you're going to make everyone feel just uncomfortable enough that they stop talking about where they buried the nukes.
The GPS tracking key. I've got to say: This one scares me the most. I don't like the thought that, for $229 (plus SkyMall's exorbitant shipping rate), someone can attach this to my car and track my every move.
Of course, they wouldn't find anything good. "He's on the move! He's on the move! He's... at Panera again. Wow this was a waste of money."
But still, not cool. Whatever happened to attaching a paint can with a hole in it to the bumper? That's how I found the Stonecutters headquarters.
The video recording spy pen. I love that the headline says "pens that even James Bond would envy." Really, SkyMall? MAYBE Roger Moore, but that's it.
The long distance listening and recording device. This one stands out because, while all the rest on the list are about their miniature-ness, this one is huge. Sure, you can use it from a long distance... but you're still the guy who's sitting there, as creepy as possible, pointing the sound orb at the people you're spying on.
And 300 feet... that's not really that far. Assuming you haven't racheted up your creepiness even more and hidden inside of a plant or something, the people you're spying on just might be able to spot you from 300 feet. That's only goal line to goal line on a football field.
The fake Bluetooth earpiece. This kinda rocks my world. The next time I see someone permanently wearing their Bluetooth earpiece, I'll have to take pause and wonder: Is this person douchey for not taking out their Bluetooth... or is this person douchey because they're secretly listening to other peoples' conversations? I mean... that's a whole different genre of douchiness.
The clock camera. At this point, if you're a nanny, don't you just assume that every alarm clock, teddy bear and toilet seat in the house is secretly recording you? That feels like something you'd learn in Nanny 101. You know, after the lesson about how to slide up a banister.
The deleted text message reader. Do cell phones still store text messages on SIM cards? Maybe the one that's pictured in the ad does... but I don't feel like more modern ones, like iPhones, do. I feel like this is one of those products that you buy, and then get all pissed off when it doesn't really work how you want it to. (You know, kinda like an iPhone.)
The sunglass camera. These seem about as covert as the giant cowboy hat Homer wears into the Kwik-E-Mart to spy on Apu. They aren't particularly good looking sunglasses and the sides are incredibly bulky (you know, to hold all of the elicit footage you're capturing). Hammacher Schlemmer should really know better.
The camera in the motion detector. I'm not entirely sure how it records 45 days worth of high-quality video on a two gigabyte SD card... especially since the thing only has a 12 hour battery life... but, beyond that, this looks like a particularly good way to spy on people in your home.
Just remember: People's private behavior is really meant to remain private. So if you install this because you think your husband is having an affair, but all you end up getting is video of him scratching his genitals, smelling his hand, eating chips with that same hand, all while singing "Cell Block Tango" from "Chicago"... just know that you can't un-see all of that.
Monitor all computer activity. Basically, this is willfully installing a stealth virus on your computer. Seems like a lot of money to pay for that privilege.
What I just said about secret videotaping can be echoed here about computer behavior. Sometimes, it's just best not to know. If you want to catch your spouse cheating or your kid having age-inappropriate conversations, do it the old fashioned way: Making passive-aggressive comments until they break.
The world's smallest camcorder. The perfect tool to catch someone who's robbing you blind... for example, the company that charges $19.95 for a two gig micro SD card.
This list was originally published on Monday, March 29, 2010 at 10:30:00 AM under the category Web & Tech.