Can Video Chat Be Intercepted and Recorded?

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Hi, Leo. I had a private video chat with my girlfriend. I’m afraid that it could be recorded by someone and released on, say, a porn site. We used personal laptops only. When I got a doubt, I scanned both systems with an anti-virus tool and they’re clean. So, there’s not really a virus, but I’m still afraid that someone will record it for monitoring and all.

It’s impossible to prove that it can’t be (or wasn’t) recorded: you can’t prove a negative. And ultimately, if this is something that really concerns you, then don’t do that!

But I don’t think there’s going to be a problem here. In practical terms, with one exception that most people don’t think about, it’s highly unlikely.

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Fear of intimate interception

This is a surprisingly common question, and the scary part is I don’t really understand why.

If you look through the comments on this article, you’ll see person after person after person ask what is essentially the exact same question. What’s scary is that they’re asking after the fact, and most are scared out of their wits that the answer is, “Yes, your intimate chat could have been intercepted and recorded.”

It’s also scary how many don’t bother to read the article they’re commenting on, which answers the question. (And which is why comments on this article remain closed.)

Video ChatThree reasons why you might be OK

There’s probably no intermediary

Most video chat is over a direct machine-to-machine connection. In order to deliver the video stream as efficiently as possible, the data goes directly from your computer to theirs. There’s no server or service in the middle processing (or capturing) the video stream.

Most chats are encrypted

Depending on the service you use, the data transmitted is very likely to be encrypted. Even someone who could intercept the data — like your ISP, for example — probably can’t decipher it.

You’re just not that interesting

I’m sorry to disappoint, but you and I just aren’t that interesting to the people who might have the ability to intercept and watch whatever it was you did on video.

Yes, all three of those points are qualified: “probably”, “most”, and, of course, you could be “interesting” if you’re in a position of power or have some other sensitive role. But it’s extremely unlikely any of those three wouldn’t apply to your video chat.

The most common reason why you might not be OK

The most common reason video chat is recorded has nothing at all to do with technology, intermediaries, or even your position in life.

It’s trivial for the person at the other end to record your video. Screen-recording software like Camtasia or QuickTime (which is included with every Mac) can do it easily. The only requirement is that it be running on the computer at one end of the video conversation.

That’s the only scenario I’ve heard of where video chat is, indeed, recorded: someone is lured into an intimate video session which is captured by the person at the other end. That person uses that video for blackmail. There is nothing that can be done.

The other scenario where video recording is theoretically possible is if you or your video partner have malware on your machine. I’ve never heard of this happening.

It’s really all about trust

If you’re certain you can truly trust the person at the other end, then it’s unlikely you have anything to worry about.

However, if you have any concern at all, the answer is simple: never engage in video activity you wouldn’t want to be made public.

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40 comments on “Can Video Chat Be Intercepted and Recorded?”

  1. Intimate video chat or doing anything on the Internet you wouldn’t do in public is always a risk. You don’t normally have to worry about Google, Skype or your ISP. the danger comes from the person on the other end. Just ask Anthony Weiner.

    You also said,

    The other scenario where video recording is theoretically possible is if you or your video partner have malware on your machine. I’ve never heard of this happening.

    A keylogger takes periodic screenshots and can relay them to someone who can use the screenshots for whichever purposes including possible blackmail.

  2. I am not sure about this so Leo may care to enlarge on it.

    To get anything like a continuous recording of four message streams, ie two video streams and two audio streams, interception would have to be at one or other of the servers of the two ISPs, as the Packets making up the streams generally follow different routes almost randomly through the different intermediate servers and nodes.

    And that is before taking encryption in to account.

  3. With Google being in the middle of the Prism issue (Along with Microsoft (Skype), Yahoo, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, YouTube, and Apple.) you can’t be too careful about what you do… Chances are, what you do online (in today’s world, anyway) IS likely to be recorded and stored. Just look at the NSA’s Utah Datacenter. It’s estimated to be able to hold anywhere from 3 to 12 exabytes of data. And that’s depending on how they utilize the space and whether or not they use advanced compression techniques or simple reduction of files (e.g. Automatically creating an written transcript of audio/video files. For which, the NSA does have a patent on technology to do so). All in all, it could be a few exabytes for a few yottabytes (of original storage potential).

    Ten years ago, I would’ve said that these kind of thoughts were far-fetched, but unfortunately, that’s the world we apparently live in today. My advice? If you don’t want someone to read/hear/watch what you are doing, use a VPN with good encryption. I run my own OpenVPN (Open source and free) server for myself and some friends. It’s run off of a very cheap VPS that I rent from a company called BitAccel. It’s $3.50/month with at 50% recurring discount from LowEndBox.com, which has great deals on VPS/Shared hosting. And if you aren’t technical enough to run one yourself, you can rent VPN service from many companies. In my thought process, it’s “Better safe than sorry…”

      • Well, OpenVPN is good at working at pretty much default setup. And the documentation is fairly well written and readily available. In fact, I’ll have to set another VPN server up soon. I just canceled the one I was running the VPN on, because it was a lot more than some others I’ve gotten recently. So yeah, when I get the time, I’ll be setting it up again.

  4. i have video chat on omegle.com you know that its a nude site.
    the person other side said to me that he recorded my video and he upload it on facebook or any other porn site..i m afraid about it is that possible to do that.. please help me sir

    • God, I’ve the same thing troubling me! Please help me!
      I just video chat with a guy, and he asked whether his wife can see me, I didnt think twice, I said ok. And after a while,(I’ve done most of the dishonor things ) his side of video just frozen, and he didn’t speak anymore. I’m so scared that he will record the video and post it!
      Do you guys think that he record it? And legally? After all he has my permission to let his wife to see me?
      I feel so scared and shamed!
      PLEASE ANYBODY CAN HELP ME???

  5. Hi Leo is it possible for my techie brother to read my text chat even after I delete via any means?
    also is it possible to make out via service provider or router or laptop with whom skype chat was done with?

  6. I did video chat with my girlfriend on facebook which was something personal?is it possible that the video can be leaked ??

  7. i did some private video chat on gmail with my girlfriend.. iam afraid if it can be leaked and uploaded in a pornsite … my parents would kill me if so..plz do help me

  8. hi Leo Sir,,,,i am worried too too much……please i need ur answer
    i want to confirm some things regarding skype and line video calling,,,specially SKYPE…
    me and my girlfriend made private video call many times from our smart phone….and apparently there was no virus in our phone……..(say if there is a virus what will be the case) further neither she recorded nor I our video call..,,,,so

    1- Are the videos recorded by skype and if yes,,then whats the time period after that it can be remove from server….????
    and if server is not recording the video call disappears for ever………?? even on try it can be recovered…..?????

    2- other than server,, a third party can be able to see our call and record it.????????

    Sir i am waiting for ur answer….please from last few days i m very very disturbed and ashamed too…..please reply sooon sir

  9. sir i am using imo app on android phone and i did personal video call with my wife on imo is there any chance to leaked my video plzzzz answer me.

    • There’s really no way to know for sure, but it’s not something legitimate companies do. They are primarily interested in making money by building a user base. Doing something like that would jeopardize their entire business if it were found out they were doing that, so I don’t believe they would leak video chats.

  10. While talking to my mom on my iPad the screen changed n on the top it said recording in red…
    M just wondering y? As far as I know m3ssenger doesn’t allow one to record.. is this a new option?

    Thanks

  11. hi Leo i want to know is there any chance tosave the video while youon it? i use aAndroidpphone he use laptop. the app is messenger. bcoz now he threaten me . please

  12. I’m not as concerned as a third party site like Skype recording my video calls, but say I make a video call to my partner- if his parents also had his wifi password (well, more like pay for the wifi and set up the passwords/network and stuff)- could they watch our video chat live or view it later?

    • Skype uses end-to-end encryption, so a computer listening in on the conversation would only see gibberish unless they hacked into his computer and recorded it from there.

  13. Hi Leo Sir,,,,i am worried too too much……please i need ur answer
    i want to confirm some things regarding skype and imo video calling
    me and my girlfriend made private video call some times from our smart phone….and apparently there was no virus in our phone… further neither she recorded nor I our video call..,,,,so
    1- Are the videos recorded by skype or imo and if yes,,then will they leak the video chats from the server….????
    and does the server records all my video chats………?? will anybody other dhan me and my gal will be able to see the video chats…..?
    2- other than server,, a third party {like the person who works in that department} can be able to see our calls and record it.????????
    Sir i am waiting for ur answer….please from last few days i m really very very disturbed and worried alot……..

    Thank You Sir

    • 1. Skype video conversations are encrypted end to end which means that Microsoft can’t record your calls.
      2. Same as #1 they re encrypted so no one in the middle can see or hear the conversation.
      3. Even though you’re OK in this case, it’s generally better not to do any activity on the phone or on your computer which you wouldn’t want to be made public in the future. I’ve heard of situations where someone reports that the person on the other end recorded the call and is threatening to make (or had made) it public.

  14. Closing comments on this article since everyone insists on asking the same question over and over and over, even though it’s answered in the article. (And why are all the questions about recording video chats coming from India and nearby countries? Is it a “thing” down there?)

    Yes, the person at either end could record the conversation. Easily.

    No, people in the middle either can’t, or are not interested, in recording your call.

    IF YOU ARE CONCERNED: then DON’T DO ANYTHING ON VIDEO YOU WOULDN’T WANT MADE PUBLIC.

Comments are closed.