A webcam is a video camera that provides a live video stream which can be viewed over the Internet.
Most webcams are either inexpensive devices connected to a computer by a USB cable or built into a device such as a tablet or a laptop computer. Webcams for professional video applications, such as those designed for use in a corporate conference room or to provide live monitoring of traffic conditions, are of considerably higher quality and cost.
Some of the most common webcam applications include:
- Video conferencing and video calling: There are many computer applications that can be paired with a webcam to provide free video calling capabilities for personal and professional use. Many businesses now use video conferencing to hold meetings that include geographically distant branches, and video calling allows loved ones to enjoy richer communication than is possible with e-mail, photographs, and phone calls.
- Monitoring and security: Webcams are often used as security cameras and placed at locations such as retail stores, childcare facilities, schools, and in private homes.
- Social videos: Many internet personalities use webcams to record videos for their fans and followers and post the clips to video sharing sites like YouTube, and social networks like Twitter and Facebook.
There are also many specialized applications for which webcams are used including healthcare patient monitoring, augmented reality applications, as an input control device for advanced games and applications, and for astrophotography.
Frequently Asked Questions
There have been instances where computers infected with malware or spyware have been hijacked and the webcam activated remotely. While these cases are rare, if you computer is equipped with a webcam you should be aware of this risk, and take a few common-sense steps to protect yourself.
First, if you think you computer may have been infected with any type of malware, get the issue cleaned up immediately. Second, if you have a device with a built-in webcam, such as a laptop, place the device in a position that won't allow the webcam to capture invasive images. This is as easy a closing your laptop when it isn't in use, and keeping your tablet in a case which you fold closed when the tablet isn't being used. Third, if your webcam is an external device, disconnect it when not in use.
Are webcams safe for children to use?
If you are a parent it's important to be aware of the risks created by webcams. For example, you should reconsider if you have allowed your child to use video chatting websites and applications as these types of services are often magnets for predators who target children. Webcams are a great way to allow your children to maintain strong relationships with distant friends and family, but there are really no cases where a child should be communicating with a stranger over a webcam.