Judge: Amazon “cannot claim shock” that bathroom spycams were used as advertised

After a spy camera designed to look like a towel hook was purchased on Amazon and illegally used for months to capture photos of a minor in her private bathroom, Amazon was sued.

The plaintiff—a former Brazilian foreign exchange student then living in West Virginia—argued that Amazon had inspected the camera three times and its safety team had failed to prevent allegedly severe, foreseeable harms still affecting her today.

Amazon hoped the court would dismiss the suit, arguing that the platform wasn’t responsible for the alleged criminal conduct harming the minor. But after nearly eight months deliberating, a judge recently largely denied the tech giant’s motion to dismiss.

Amazon’s biggest problem persuading the judge was seemingly the product descriptions that the platform approved. An amended complaint included a photo from Amazon’s product listing that showed bathroom towels hanging on hooks that disguised the hidden camera. Text on that product image promoted the spycams, boasting that they “won’t attract attention” because each hook appears to be “a very ordinary hook.”


Tech legal expert Eric Goldman wrote that a victory for the plaintiff could be considered “a dangerous ruling for the spy cam industry and for Amazon,” because “the court’s analysis could indicate that all surreptitious hook cameras are categorically illegal to sell.” That could prevent completely legal uses of cameras designed to look like clothes hooks, Goldman wrote, such as hypothetical in-home surveillance uses.

In what reality is there any need for a door-hook camera except to spy on someone who has not given consent???

Jayzuz. That was some poor mind gymnastics right there.


I feel like this quote was intended to be sarcastic, but idk, Poe’s law after all.


It’s for when someone breaks into your bathroom.

Neato avatar

A regular security cam would be fine. Most spy cams aren't going to alert anything. They just record.


nope. spy = no consent

@FuglyDuck@lemmy.world avatar


… yeah I got nothing.


Maybe if it was designed to look like a book or something, you could argue it has legitimate uses for home surveillance. But towel hooks are almost exclusively found in bathrooms.

Now, maybe I’m making assumptions here, but I don’t think most people keep valuables in their bathrooms, so that leaves exactly one use case this could have, and it’s not home protection.

@FuglyDuck@lemmy.world avatar

precisely. there’s no legitimate/legal use case for this.

FaceDeer avatar

As a counterpoint, I have clothes hooks in my front foyer. So that's one place that it would make a lot of sense to use one of these.

I still don't see why I'd want to hide a camera in something that's explicitly designed to have clothing draped over it, though. Seems like there are better things in my foyer to disguise a camera in.


In what reality is there any need for a door-hook camera

maybe for when the police illegally raid, eat your lemon pound cake, steal your money and fuck up your visible cameras?

just because YOU can't think of any use other than creepy doesn't mean the rest of us are so afflicted.


For anyone not in the know, Afroman, famous for the songs Crazy Rap (Colt 45) and Because I got High had his house raided by police. He got most of the raid on film and made the video into a music video.

EpeeGnome, (edited )

None of the police actually ate Afroman’s lemon pound cake, just one stared longingly at it for an awkwardly long amount of time, lol. Let’s not muddy the waters by accusing those police of something they didn’t do, and focus on the blatantly provable (lack of real probable cause, intentionally sabotaging his cameras) and the alleged but highly plausible (“miscounting” some of his cash into their own pockets).

Poggervania avatar

He could’ve used literally any other example, but of course he chose the creepy one. Could’ve stood on the stance that businesses would need them for shoplifting ffs.


Except any place where it would make sense to place one within a business would be illegal. You are not allowed to place cameras hidden or not in places where one could have an expectation of privacy.


Watching the babysitter if you think she’s abusing your kids.

Monitoring your office if you’re a politician afraid of poisoning.

Making an OnlyFans of Grandma pooping.

Lots of legitimate uses if you’re creative enough.

@victron@programming.dev avatar

You had me in the first half, not gonna lie.


What? Grandma consented! It’s her kink.


Deterrence is always preferable. Clear monitoring may stop crimes in addition to capturing wanton disregard. A disguised bathroom cam is clearly designed to capture illegal footage. It isn’t a deterrent to crime, it’s a tool to commit it. Spy cams in general are sleazy and disgusting.

Even a nanny cam, despite the clearly just intentions, allow a crime to happen more so than clear security cameras and can be used for less lawful things due to their design.



Deterrence stops people from doing bad things in front of the camera. Useful if you have physical choke points that funnel people to the camera itself of course. But if you put up an obvious nanny cam in one room, all you guarantee is that the abuse happens in another.


Watching the babysitter if you think she’s abusing your kids. In the bathroom? Cause that’s where towel hooks are.

Monitoring your office if you’re a politician afraid of poisoning. See above


My jokes aside, I absolutely have towel hooks in non bathrooms. It’s turns out there also capable of holding jackets and other things, despite the name.

FaceDeer avatar

And also, the bathroom seems like a prime location for a child abuser to corner a victim.

Huh. I'm actually swinging very slightly back toward Amazon's side on this. Only very slightly, though. This is a tricky case.


If you think the baby sitter is abusing your kid, your a moron, why even hire him/her.

And now you are also recording the babysitter going to the bathroom.

@NOT_RICK@lemmy.world avatar

Couldn’t that as easily be a coat hanger or something to hang your keys or bag on? A hook is a hook.


And why could that hallway not be covered by a regular security cam instead?

@NOT_RICK@lemmy.world avatar

Valid point


but once you advertise it as a surreptitious towel hook and show pictures of it being used as a surreptitious towel hook, it becomes not just any kind of hook. one of the use cases proposed by the manufacturer has become manufacturing illegal pornography by setting up a hidden cam in the bathroom.


they advertised it as a towel hook AND if they used it to hang hats or whatever it could block the camera. I think its fair to say this is a very creepy camera.


And what about grandma’s onlyfans? Checkmate


The fucked up part is there’s a whole industry for this


Judging from the thumbnail, if I walked into that red rum tiled bathroom I’d hold it.


Currently, Amazon advertises several “clothes hook hidden camera” products when users search for “bathroom spy camera,” an Ars search found, but it’s unclear if the spy cam at the center of this lawsuit is still available on Amazon.

Despite the lawsuit, they are still selling this crap.


we didn’t expect anyone to use the CSAM machine to actually manufacture CSAM, even though it was listed as “CSAM machine” and described as “perfect for making CSAM”


we need to also prosecute Big Q-Tip

chitak166, (edited )

Do you sue gun sellers for when people use their guns for illegal activities?

What about computer retailers?


Completely missing the point. It was very clearly being advertised to be used in this way, and it was approved by amazon. It would only be comparable if gun manufacturers were advertising “a drug dealer will never notice you’re carrying it” or something similar.


You do realize just cause it’s called a “towel hook”doesn’t mean it only holds towels, right? Also - towels aren’t exclusively hung in bathrooms.


Yes, I understand that. What that has to do with my point is beyond me, however.


I’m pointing out there are legitimate places for a towel hook with hidden camera to be located. Something used for illegal activity is on the onus of the person performing the illegal act, not the manufacturer or distributor of the tool.

If something is only used for illegal activity, then I agree Amazon would have culpability.

No one is blaming the hammer manufacturer or Home Depot for selling a hammer to the guy who attacked Pelosi’s husband. You blame the moron for being a trash human. Same is true here - there are legitimate uses of a towel hook camera. Placing one in the bathroom is not one of them, and the person who placed it there is the only person at fault.


No one is blaming the hammer manufacturer or Home Depot for selling a hammer to the guy who attacked Pelosi’s husband.

Again, missing the point. Go back and read my first post.


It’s not illegal to put a hidden camera in your bathroom, though.

Just like it’s not illegal to take a gun to the shooting range.

It would only be comparable if gun manufacturers were advertising “a drug dealer will never notice you’re carrying it”

No, it wouldn’t. Guns are for shooting just like this camera is for recording. What you shoot and record is what makes their usage illegal.


Guns are for shooting just like this camera is for recording. What you shoot and record is what makes their usage illegal.

Missing the point. They are arguing that this was being advertised for illegal use, and thus they are responsible. The other poster was drawing a comparison by implying that gun manufacturers should be held responsible for when guns are used for illegal purposes. I’m pointing out that it would only be comparable if they were being advertised, even if just clearly implicitly, for illegal use.

@DevCat@lemmy.world avatar

If you advertise your product specifically for doing something that is inherently wrong, yes.


“No one actually expects any of this cheap Chinese shit that we shove down everyone’s throats to work your honor”


Ah, going with the Fox News defense i see.


I see those 9 tails too!


This would probably have been a better defense then “omg! This thing being advertised as a towel hook that no one will notice, was being used as a towel hook to spy on someone?”


Not so much about this particular case, but I think the real question here is, “Should we expect every online retailer to be responsible for everything sold on their platform?” Why or why not?

The US has already decided that platforms are not responsible for the speech that occurs there. Why or why not?

Are we for or against prohibitions? Radical conservative and liberal takes both fail in certain circumstances.

It’s a strange new world, and these are the conversations we have to have.


“Should we expect every online retailer to be responsible for everything sold on their platform?”

Let’s change a couple of words and see whether your opinion changes

"Should we expect every retailer to be responsible for everything sold in their store.

If it’s reasonable to expect physical retailers to take some responsibility for the legality and safety of items in their stores, then what’s different about it being a virtual store?


That’s comparing several thousand items to several millions. Same with vendors. A brick and mortar doesn’t have millions of vendors to monitor.

TargaryenTKE, (edited )

They still obtain, sell, and profit off of all of those items, whether it’s in the hundreds, billions, or anything in between. If they can’t be bothered to do their job correctly because they’re ‘too big to fail even try’ then it’s still their fault. They have the ability and the means to NOT sell those items; nobody is pointing a gun at Bezos, forcing him to sell these things. Just an insane level of recklessness and callous disregard for all but profit. Even eBay has a fairly solid system checking and removing prohibited items, but 23 out of Amazon’s 33 product categories are partially or entirely “ungated,” meaning putting products up for sale don’t require any sorts of checks or approval


The first question is one of the easiest questions out there in my eyes, yes any company should be responsible for all content on their site. No exceptions. What I mean by this is if a company is aware (i.e someone reported it or it came across the safety system) and the company willfully (either by automated systems ignoring or a person deciding no action is needed) then the company should be held liable for it.


Physical goods aren’t protected speech. You’re comparing laws regarding apples with laws regarding oranges.


I was trying to compare what it permissible for online entities. Again, it’s a strange new world.


“Should we expect every online retailer to be responsible for everything sold on their platform?”

I don’t really see the drawback of them being required to reasonably vet everything they are selling. I don’t know where to draw the line, exactly, but I’m not suggesting they need to product test everything to make sure it’s okay, but in this case where it’s clearly being created and advertised in such a manner they should assume some responsibility. Many times they are actually the seller in these, if not at least a broker. They are very much involved directly in the transaction. I don’t see much of drawback from this, but I could be missing something.

As for moderation, as far as I can tell, the whole idea of an “online message system” completely falls apart if platforms are responsible for everything said on the platform. It would require every post to be moderated, and that is (or was, at least) just infeasible. Well, maybe no with AI. . .but is that any better?


“Should we expect every online retailer to be responsible for everything sold on their platform?”

The fact that the answer to this question is up in the air shows just how bent over to business this country is. Of course they should be held responsible for the things they sell.

Imagine for a moment if someone listed heroin on Amazon. Do you think Amazon should be held responsible for selling that?

Why would US policy be structured to allow industry to create online marketplaces that openly sell and advertise items for illegal purposes? Should we allow it because it’s easier for one store to sell every type of instant garbage under the sun without oversight? Why is that something we should encourage or accommodate?

Products aren’t speech. Just because it’s slightly inconvenient for Amazon to have a person look through new product listings before they’re approved because maybe there’s millions of them doesn’t mean we owe them that savings.


I think that if you’re taking 8-45% of the selling price of the things people move through your platform, you should be held more accountable than somewhere that people can post hate speech for free.

Amazon is full of fakes and blatant fraud, and they absolutely should be policing that under the threat of enormous fines that they would actually notice and far exceed the cost of doing their job.

But is what they sold here illegal to buy in that territory? And should it be? In Japan for example, most camera phones make a noise when you take a photo. Is it time for lawmakers to actually pay attention to what is being sold?

ArugulaZ avatar

"I can't believe someone bought our 'Watch a Fourteen Year Old Pee Cam' to watch a fourteen year old pee!"

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