Caught On Tape: You're Being Watched

"Big Brother is watching you." George Orwell made that catchphrase famous in his book "1984." Today, some say his vision has come true.

Cameras are certainly in a lot of places these days. They're on the beat with cops. They're in supermarkets, office buildings and on some city streets. Some parents are installing cameras to keep an eye on their kids.

One father hid a camera behind a wall hanging in the family home, and caught his children and their friends drinking beer and playing strip spin the bottle.

By the way, parenting experts generally recommend that parents NOT spy on their kids.

"All spying does is tell a kid that the reason for doing the right thing is because you're being watched -- that doesn't instill any values," said Neil Bernstein, a clinical psychologist and author of "How to Keep Your Teenagers Out of Trouble: And What to Do If You Can't."

Increasingly, cameras are providing the proof authorities need to intervene. Some parents have planted cameras to watch their nannies while they're at work. In some cases, the tapes revealed abuse, and police have arrested nannies caught on tape abusing babies.

Surveillance video sometimes catches people who file bogus workers' compensation claims. They said they were too injured to work, but were healthy enough to be caught on tape running around outdoors. We have one tape of a corrupt chiropractor, caught coaching a patient to lie to collect insurance money.

And "20/20" caught an auto body shop making extra work for itself by taking a hammer to a customer's car.

This sort of targeted surveillance is clearly helpful, but what about government cameras that keep all of us under surveillance?

Cameras Patrolling the Streets

I recently drove around Wilmington, Del., enjoying the privacy of my car. But was it really private?

Since 2001, in Wilmington, a company called Downtown Visions has blanketed 70 square blocks of downtown with video cameras. They were watching me from a control room as I drove around town.

Police say this makes us safer. They have arrested 150 people because of these cameras.

Crime in Wilmington has dropped since the cameras were installed. Of course crime rates nationally have dropped, so it's hard to know how much difference the cameras made. Still, Wilmington Mayor James M. Baker is thrilled with the cameras.

"I think it gives people more security about being in the downtown area," he said.

Now maybe people should be afraid of the government? I asked.

After all, the town has their pictures. "Well, I'd love to have some crooks' pictures," Baker said.

But most people videotaped are not crooks. I find it somewhat chilling that the government is watching us without our knowing it. And it makes you wonder -- who exactly is watching?

Downtown Visions says it monitors its employees to make sure they don't zoom in on pretty women, make tapes for their friends or do other unethical things. But you have to wonder if all those surveillance companies are ethical.

Think about that if you ever drive through the wealthy community of Manalapan, Fla.

Authorities there want to catch burglars, so they not only photograph just about every car entering town, they run license plate numbers through police computers to see who's who.

Manalapan just made its first arrest with the new system. But is it a good thing to photograph everyone, including law-abiding citizens? Do we need to videotape the Sunday driver who is just minding his own business?

You have a society in which people no longer feel that they're free.

University of Pennsylvania law professor Anita Allen says we're starting to approach Orwell's "1984." "To the extent that we're allowing government to put up cameras, to mount cameras and spy on us, inspect us 24/7, we're becoming more like that Orwellian world," Allen said.

Intimate Violations

And violations are only getting more intimate. Now that cameras keep getting smaller and cheaper, it's easier for people to put hidden cameras where we absolutely have an expectation of privacy -- say, when we're naked -- as women were in a locker room in a private health club in Austin, Texas.

"Pretty much anywhere you were in here you were picked up by a camera," said Bobbi Eaves, a member at the club.

Eaves said she and other women who worked out at the gym were shocked to learn that the owner had planted hidden cameras all around the club locker room. Hundreds of women were photographed changing their clothes and getting in and out of showers.

Eaves' twin daughters, Morgan and Mikal-Ann, also worked out at the gym and the owner persuaded the mother and her daughters to pose for the club calendar. For the photo shoot, he told them to change in the club nursery, but it was a trick.

"We had changed in a nursery and he had hidden cameras in the crib of the nursery. So while we changed, he had videoed us," Morgan said.

Morgan and Mikal-Ann were also caught on tape working at the front desk. There was a camera placed in a gym bag under the desk.

When the club owner, Peter Schmitz, was finally arrested and his tapes confiscated, police showed the twins the videos.

"We got called into the detective's office. We sat and identified like 6,000 pictures one night. ... I was completely shocked. I didn't know what to do. I just started bawling immediately," Morgan said.

Police gave the bad news to dozens of women including another teenage victim, Stefani Meyman.

"As soon as I walked into the detective's office, they recognized me," she said. "My heart sank right there."

Schmitz is in prison now -- serving two years for "improper photography."

Ironically, he was caught by his own cameras. He'd secretly videotaped himself having sex with a married woman. When she tried to break up with him, he threatened to show the tapes to her husband. She went to the police.

'Scrapbooking' -- Kids Catching Themselves on Tape

More people are videotaping themselves doing bizarre things. One growing phenomenon is "scrapbooking," when kids see a stunt on TV and movies and imitate it.

One boy set himself on fire while his friends videotaped it. He was seriously burned.

New York police Lt. Steve Mona says a videotape showing a dangerous stunt like this is considered a trophy.

"Video is a way of proving, 'Hey, look what I did.' It might sound silly to us, but to them it's a really big deal," Mona said.

Amazingly, some people even record their own criminal acts. One group of boys taped themselves beating and then robbing a man.

Other boys kept their camera rolling while they broke into a cabin and destroyed almost everything in it. The camera was still recording them when the police arrived.

In another instance, two boys taped themselves breaking into a police car, dousing it with gasoline and setting it on fire.

Perhaps the most horrifying scrapbook video was one made by Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold. They taped themselves firing an arsenal of weapons in a Colorado forest, just six weeks before they open fired on students and teachers at Columbine High School, killing 15 people, including themselves.