Footnote 4


Dotted across North America, dozens of merchants are finding that there's a roaring market in peddling Cold War technology to paranoid executives, jilted husbands, and other spooky types. To get my invisible ink, I wandered up to my local branch—a store called Spytech ("Sophisticated Security at Sensible Prices!")

Inside, I found proprietor Ursula Lebana and a few employees testing a new spy device--a special antenna that picks up signals from remote cameras. They were busy scanning the neighborhood, peeking into people's offices by picking up signals from the remote security cams. When I arrived, they had gotten a clear shot of an executive lounge in a nearby office tower.

Browsing the store, I wondered who buys $29.95 voice and $995 fully encrypted walkie-talkies. "We sell a lot of stuff to businessmen, lawyers, people have to do high-security stuff," Lebana told me.

Maybe, although a quick peek at the Spytech catalogue reveals a world of genuinely scary paranoia—exactly the sort that spy equipment is supposed to alleviate. "Sibyl was a fifteen-year-old cheerleader who suddenly became irritable and unpleasant," reads the intro to the catalogue. "How did her parents substantiate that her behavior change was due to her newly acquired lust for cocaine?"

Jilted husbands, in particular, are evidently high-end consumers of snooping technology. At the start of the video section, we get the cautionary tale of Jack, whose business "required frequent travel," and who discovered after multiple absences from home that his wife "had lost interest in him," and was "argumentative, distant." The solution? He installed a secret camera in the home to record her while he was out, and discovered that she was indeed having an affair. "He made a copy of the tape, put it in a safe-deposit vault, and then confronted his wife with the evidence. When it came time for the divorce hearing, Jack knew his tape would be the ace that he needed to get a settlement in his favor."

Just to further the gendered insanity, the "personal protection" section begins with a list of possible tools the ladies can use to avoid rape—such as the Spy Sensor. "Rapists are known to have a tendency to lurk in dark areas," the section reads. "What can you do to protect yourself when walking in an area with little lighting available? The Spy Sensor will detect the presence of an individual in total darkness. It operates on the technology frequently used by the military: heat sensing. Imagine the frustration of an attacker when you have the advantage of knowing he is there—and avoid the immediate area."

Imagine.