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Which smart security cams are serious about privacy? We’ve ranked them all

If you’re considering a home security system — complete with floodlights, motion sensors, and state-of-the-art cameras — it may come as a shock to learn that cameras, the heart and soul of any surveillance system, are prone to meddling and takeovers by skilled hackers. Once linked into your system, hackers may have the ability to compromise your gear, steal your data, and terrorize your household.

According to security expert Gregory Hanis, hacks of home security cameras are only going to get worse. Home security cams are vulnerable, popular, and offer direct access to the lives of victims.

While this intel may be hard to stomach, none of this is to dissuade you from investing in a total peace-of-mind security package. In fact, what we really want to do is aim our spotlight on the most secure surveillance hardware you can buy today. Security cam makers need to take more proactive measures, which is why we’re pitting some of the most popular cams against one another in a security scorecard.

A lineup of top-notch security cameras.
John Velasco / Digital Trends

What we’re looking for?

Today’s indoor security cameras come with a variety of prices, offerings, and features. With hacking being a major topic, we thought we’d put some of the most popular models to the test to uncover which of them take security and privacy more seriously. These are the categories we’ll be checking to see how they stack up.

Two-factor authentication

Passwords are great, but as we’ve seen, there are ways a camera can be compromised. That’s why two-factor authentication has gained traction. It offers an additional layer of protection besides just putting in a password to access your camera.

Privacy shutter

Are you afraid someone’s watching you? Privacy shutters will disable your camera to prevent video from being streamed or recorded. Typically, it’s achieved by electronically disabling power to the camera. That can be done in several ways, including with an app, by pressing a switch on the camera itself, or with a physical cover that goes over the camera.

Local storage

Many people worry that video footage captured by security cameras, and then subsequently uploaded to the cloud, can be intercepted by a hacker, or potentially be watched by an unauthorized person. With local storage, your camera’s videos are stored within the device onto a memory card. Privacy-minded cameras should offer this option, ideally as an alternative to the cloud.

Detection zones

Smart security cameras can automatically capture video when motion is detected. The most effective ones can even use facial recognition to separate strangers from known family and friends. Models with detection zones, however, eliminate the need for cameras to constantly record footage because of redundant movement. With detection zones, you can select what areas in a frame to monitor.

Facial recognition

Reducing false alerts can also be achieved with the help of facial recognition. Cameras with this ability can be programmed to record only when unknown faces are recorded. When you’re home, facial recognition won’t actively record when it detects a familiar face. This can also provide a better sense of privacy if a camera is shared among family members, as it can be used to stop alerts being sent whenever a person is visible, and instead only send alerts when an unknown person appears.

Two Factor Privacy Shutter Local Storage Detection Zones Facial Recognition
Wyze Cam V3 X X X
Google Nest Cam IQ Indoor X X X X
CYNC Indoor Cam X X X X
Eufy Security Indoor Cam 2K Pan and Tilt X X X X
D-Link DCS8300 Wi-Fi Camera X X X
Simplisafe Simplicam X X X
Arlo Essential Indoor Security Cam X X X
Logitech Circle View X X X X

The bare minimum

If there’s one category that takes precedence over the rest, it has to be two-factor authentication. It’s the bare minimum expectation that every security camera should offer, just because it’s a surefire way to safeguard you. As you can tell from our scorecard, some of today’s leading brands take this doubled-up protection very seriously.

In-app image of two-factor authentication.
John Velasco / Digital Trends

Typically, two-factor authentication begins with the user entering their main sign-in credentials, which are usually username and password. This is followed up by the second part of the authenticating process, which may include a unique pin code, a card number, or something as advanced as a fingerprint scan or facial scanning.

Protecting your privacy in the home

Security cameras are invited inside of the home to give homeowners a view of what’s going on when they’re away. While some people are more conscious about where they place cameras, others are not — so they may be in prime places with a lot of foot traffic. The solution to protecting your privacy inside of the home is a privacy shutter, a mechanism that can disable a camera electronically, so that it’s no longer on, detecting motion or recording footage.

Most cameras employ some sort of privacy shutter mechanism, but with very different implementations. For example, there are electronic shutters that can disable cameras remotely using an app. Sure, unplugging a camera physically guarantees zero access (hackers included), but it’s inconvenient having to constantly plug it back in when you want to use it. Plus, you have to actually remember to do it. The vast majority of the cameras we checked out can be disabled remotely through an app.

Person enabling privacy shutter using their camera app.
John Velasco / Digital Trends

Then there’s SimpliSafe’s SimpliCam, which features a mechanical shutter that physically covers the camera’s view when it’s initiated. Plus, you can set up a routine where the SimpliCam will enable the mechanical shutter whenever you’re home — and automatically disable it when you’re away to detect motion and record footage.

The Arlo Essential Indoor Security Camera is another great option for privacy shuttering.  The wired camera records in full 1080p HD, features two-way talk, customizable motion detection zones, and the ability to remotely shield the lens.

Still, there are other implementations that get the job done, like the Logitech Circle View and Eufy Security Indoor Cam 2K Pan and Tilt. With the former, Logitech designed the camera to allow people to face it downward manually — plus, there’s a button on it as well that turns off the camera and mic. Meanwhile, Eufy’s new security camera articulates for 360-degree coverage, but there’s an option through the app to tuck away the camera’s view.

Few local storage options among brand names

It’s worth pointing out that all of these cameras offer cloud storage to save video footage of captured events. Advantages to this include being able to instantly get access to those clips, while also doubling as a depository to store them for later viewing. But there’s also that fear of unauthorized viewing, whether it’s from an internal source from that camera’s company, or worse, a hacker. Also, some cameras require you to subscribe to a paid structure to save footage to the cloud — like the Google Nest Cam IQ Indoor.

Wyze Cam v3 closeup of camera lens.
John Velasco / Digital Trends

That’s partly the reason why local storage is an appealing alternative. As you can tell from the chart, most of the established brands don’t offer local storage options. Instead, it’s the lesser-known brands that embrace it. Cameras like the Wyze Cam V3 and Eufy’s new 2K security cameras offer this solution. Not only can you choose to have triggered events stored onto a microSD card, but they can also be configured to act as a continuously recording camera in most cases.

While local storage may seem like a more secure route than cloud storage, there’s more management required in organizing and archiving clips. Despite that, it’s an option for anyone who doesn’t want an outside entity sniffing out content that’s deemed private.

Which one should you buy?

That’s a tough one, mainly because there are so many factors that come into play. Consumers want to feel safe, but they also crave features that make the cameras more useful. Pricing can influence a buying decision, but when it comes to your privacy and security, it shouldn’t take precedence above other things.

More on camera security

Again, I can’t stress the importance of two-factor authentication enough — it’ll protect you in the long run. But there are other areas to consider to protect you even more. The Wyze Cam V3 is one of the more attractive, well-rounded cameras on our scorecard. In addition to two-factor authentication, it features custom detection zones, local storage, and the ability to disable the camera completely through an app. All of that in a $35 package!

Another equally compelling camera is Eufy’s Security Indoor Cam 2K Pan and Tilt. It has the same features as Wyze’s camera, but at a slightly higher cost of $50. It’s a good option because of its privacy features, excellent video quality, and 360-degree coverage with its articulating camera. Then again, the 2-factor authentication omission is glaring.

The established brands are also in contention, which is why you also should consider Google’s Nest Cam IQ Indoor. We really like how it will automatically arm itself based on your phone’s GPS location — so it’ll turn off once you’re at home by itself.

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