Introduction: USB Spy Shirt

Picture of USB Spy Shirt


I always thought it would be cool to have a button camera on my shirt so I could secretly record whatever I wanted to. I mean the possibilities are endless: gathering evidence, blackmail, private investigation, blackmail, research, blackmail.

Unfortunately, some of those little cameras cost up to $300. So whats a broke engineering student to do, you ask? Why not whip something up from some of the stuff I already have.

Step 1: Materials

Picture of Materials

1. Laptop
2. Laptop bag
3. Laptop USB camera, the smaller the better, and it should have at least a 4 foot cord. I used the GE camera shown in the picture below.
4.Shirt with black buttons. (A dark color shirt is best)
5. Scissors or a knife

Step 2: Prepare the Camera

Picture of Prepare the Camera

To prepare the camera you must remove all nonessential parts in order to slim down size.

For my camera this included removing the plastic case and the clip. Without those pieces the final camera size was down to about an inch square and a centimeter tall. Try to get the size of your camera as small as possible so it can be easily hidden.

Step 3: Prepare the Shirt

Picture of Prepare the Shirt

Find the button location that will provide the best vantage point for the camera. For my shirt it was the first button under the collar button.

Cut off that button. On the inside of the shirt cut a hole through the hemming, this will provide an area for the camera to rest. Then cut another hole for the lens of the camera to stick through. The hole in the hemming is so that the USB cord can be woven around the buttons.

Step 4: Combine the Camera and the Shirt

Picture of Combine the Camera and the Shirt

If it is possible for you to fit the USB plug around the buttons inside the hem, then all you need to do is push the plug down through the hem and cut a hole at the bottom for the plug to come out of.

Otherwise you can either sew the cord to the inside of the shirt, or cut holes in the hem around the buttons, and weave the cord in and out.

Once the entire length of cord is through the shirt.

Step 5: Add the Laptop and the Bag

Picture of Add the Laptop and the Bag

I choose this light messenger bag instead of the padded one that came with my laptop because it provides better air circulation. Remember: The laptop is going to be turned on inside the bag so if your laptop runs particularly hot, you might be at risk of overheating.

Place the laptop in the bag with the USB ports facing the side closest to where the cord comes out of your shirt.

Step 6: Record

Picture of Record

Use a camera recording software such as vision gs to capture video from your USB spy shirt.

Step 7: Possibilities

Picture of Possibilities

The possibilities for this project are vast.

The most interesting thing I can can think of right now would be to use my schools wifi network to wirelessly broadcast the signal online. It could then be used like a live video blog where people see everything going on in my life.


MaKaShinobi2 (author)2013-01-28

i think that it would be a good idea to only cut a hole at the top of the shirt,(where the cord goes) and at the bottom where the cord comes out. that way you could un button the shirt and it wouldnt be as obvious that you have a cord in your shirt.

siafulinux (author)2011-07-08

After positing my original reply to lifelong-newbie above, it made me think of Google Maps; while not video their street maps certainly do capture everyone in public and it's used quite freely. If "recording" someone is illegal, then I wonder how they get by this since they cover not only many different States, but also Britain and a number of other areas in the world.

Don't think it's illegal to "record" someone in public, even if it's video.

jschultz9 (author)siafulinux2012-03-15

it isn't illegal for someone to snap a photo of you in public, if it were there would be a lot of things about modern society that would be impossible. Such as artistic photography, tabloid magazines, survalence cameras, etc.

But it is illegal to use someone's likeness for profit or personal gain without the person's permission.

burwuro (author)siafulinux2011-07-08

I believe Google maps hides there face's by fuzzing them out.

siafulinux (author)burwuro2011-07-08

True, but it's easy to miss someone (and I have seen a couple of faces on the streets of Japan) with the huge number of pictures they're taking and I think they do that as a courtesy to privacy, not as a requirement; but I could be wrong.

Even so, that means to bypass any "illegal video taping" all I'd need to do is fuzz out their faces to make it legal. So one could still record in public. :)

blur out faces if you are publishing video or uploading it to youtube. The rule in most places is that it is illegal to go around taking photos and videos of people, but that isnt enforced, however, if if somebody expresses to you that they dont want to be filmed, you can not film them, and that law is enforced. Also if somebody finds uploaded footage of themselves later, they can request it is taken down using legal action

zack247 (author)SamuelGretschken2011-07-09

unless by chance the video of them goes viral, then it would be pretty hard to take it down.

SamuelGretschken (author)zack2472011-07-09

yeah of course, or if you are a filmaker or releasing something to dvd, the amount of law work for someone to get it censored would be astronomical. A rule of thumb to keep in mind is: Once its online, dont ever expect to be able to get it back.

sid98 (author)2011-12-27


lifelong-newbie (author)2007-03-07

Hate to burst bubbles, although i secretly enjoy it, Filming people without there written permission is ILLEGAL, don't do it in the UK, i aint sure about american laws but thats coz i live in britain

Rye (author)lifelong-newbie2008-05-19

you usually only run into problems if the video winds up on tv or becomes really popular

evilmadcow (author)Rye2011-07-08

I concur

Rye (author)evilmadcow2011-07-19

Haha so strange that I should log in after a year or so of inactivity and discover people still replying to my comments

DIY-Guy (author)Rye2011-11-12

People read your comments when they read this Instructable. There is no time limit for someone to be a first time viewer. There is no time limit to when a thought will occur to someone reading an article either. This is the Internet, things will be viewed again and again for a very long time from now. (Isn't it nice to know your written thoughts might outlive you?)

its not allowed in the U.S. as far as i know but its allowed in Canada, this is usually only if you plan on showing it on television or charging people to see it.

siafulinux (author)raith20062011-07-08

I believe if you are in public areas you are recordable. The exception are police and public officials; but only in certain States.

In some States you can record audio (assume this would apply to video as well) so long as one side of the conversation knows it's being recorded (eg: yourself on the phone with ... [insert harrasing caller here]).

in the james bond movies they do it in britan or wherever...

geoslim13 (author)casey321b2010-10-07

James Bond had immunity though and was law enforcement

bendog38 (author)geoslim132011-05-26

Bond also typically operated outside of his own country.

jeffconnelly (author)bendog382011-07-08

^Bond also typically operated IN FICTION.


evilmadcow (author)jeffconnelly2011-07-08


_soapy_ (author)lifelong-newbie2007-07-05

Er, right... You are filmed without your permission everywhere you go in the UK. Every town and city, most roads, nearly every business, even car parks. There are police vans driving around recording you in Manchester, Preston, London, even in smaller places. Houses have CCTV too. The only requirement is that you put up a sign to tell people you are doing it. Reason being, the cops like to know who is recording what and when. Top tip: stream the video and record it locally too, so they can take the local copy away and lose it without any issues. For you, at least. Look carefully at the picture below. What do you notice?

lifelong-newbie (author)_soapy_2008-03-23

Thats what i mean, if there is a sign up people know about the recording and can avoid the surveyed area if they want to. Filming people without their knowledge is a breach of privacy

_soapy_ (author)lifelong-newbie2008-03-25

If you avoided the CCTV covered areas, you would have to stay inside with the windows covered! There is CCTV on nearly every street in every city in the UK. And even where there is not, there is a fat bloke with a turret on his car watching you - perhaps... You can read the sign that says CCTV from 100feet if you are lucky, and looking for it. The zoom on the CCTV camera can see you clearly at a mile. Is that informed consent in any way?

lifelong-newbie (author)_soapy_2008-03-28

Exactly, just one of the many things wrong with modern Big Brother society

jomac_uk (author)lifelong-newbie2010-12-30

The UK has the HIGHEST amount of CCTV camera's per head of population ten anywhere in the world, i read it was in excess of 4.5 cameras for every man, woman and child. Its claimed, its to reduce crime, but yet we have one of the highest crime rates in the world!

jlms (author)lifelong-newbie2010-03-21

The UK has no privacy laws....

Filming people without their knowledge, under certain conditions, is not illegal in America (you said that you live in the UK, so these laws don't apply to you). As rebladkins said "It is legal to film anything in a public place" which is correct. I think the actual law is even more general stating something like "people can be filmed without their consent, as long as there is no reasonable expectation of privacy". I am pretty sure this means that as long as you are in a public place, you can videotape anything that you can see. This would include scenarios like being in a public area and videotaping inside someone's house through an open window. (This is only applicable if the laws governing photography and videotaping are the same, which, they should be, since a video is just a rapid sequence of photographs) The perfect example of something like this, is being able to see inside peoples homes using Google street view.

jlms (author)lifelong-newbie2010-03-21

This is not true. Show your sources please.

So you are saying I cannot have a surveillance camera on my property? Technically, your shirt is your property.

Not illegal, but unlawful. there's a difference, and that's why normally those in the legal profession often give better legal advice than those outside of it. Generally one is presumed to know the law, unless one is a judge. Judges often retire to their chambers to consult law books. If you are going to do anything outside the bounds of 'what everyone always does' you should do some checking for yourself as to what is and isn't legal.

It is legal to film anything that is in a public place, either with or without permission. Questions pertaining to "Rights of Use" occur only in the manner in which an image is used, i.e. (public, private, for profit, commercial, etc...).

a7x92x (author)lifelong-newbie2007-08-26

only illegal if you record their voice in the US, nor sure bout UK. i did this, and a cop noticed. luckily, i knew the cop, and he told me that it isnt illegal unless you record their voice

Genflag (author)a7x92x2007-09-20

The only federal law states that you can record people without permission and then sell it for advertisement or other public use. All other restrictions are state by state. Here in Arkansas you can even record phone calls without the other persons knowledge as long as at least one party knows about it, meaning a third party can't eavesdrop and record two other people talking, but if one of the other two people know about it, it's legal.

Genflag (author)Genflag2007-09-20


chimp022 (author)2011-08-08

would it be possible to use a wireless usb web cam?

zack247 (author)2011-07-09

the only thing i may suggest for a (possible) future version would be to find a cell phone capable of video, and extend the wires of the camera so you can have the phone in your pocket, and then the camera, since its smaller, would be even less noticable, or perhaps a webcam from inside a laptop, whichever would be the cheaper way.

all in all, great instructable!

siafulinux (author)2011-07-08

Like the project... though it's easier for me to get a ready made "spy" recording device. But in the spirit of DIY; nicely done!

lockdown1101 (author)2011-05-26

I don't mean to step on your hands, but you're not that good at engineering...

I was expecting you to actually take apart the camera to where the lens would be hanging from wires and not just glueing the pcboard to your shirt =/.

Also, this was filed under the USB section, so I figured it would be able to record self-sufficiently... Bringing along an entire laptop defeats the purpose for me entirely.

If I were to design something like this, I would have used an arduino or something to actually record and dump the file onto whatever flash drive were hooked up. Make something like that lol.

evilmadcow (author)lockdown11012011-07-08

chill, man this might be as much as he could spend, you're telling him to spend $600.

PikeMinnow (author)lockdown11012011-05-29

But in the spirit of cruft, he has succeeded in what he wanted to do :D

ausman08 (author)2011-02-06

y do u need a spy camera on a shirt that ur wearing

killa696 (author)2010-02-20

Hmmmm... if you had a small old cameraphone, you could mount the camera from the cameraphone on a shirt and make the whole thing a lot smaller, but it wouldn't be very good quality. Also, to record more than 10 minutes, you would need a mini sd, preferably one with a lot of space. Also, you could get something like a deodorant can or a cd player or alarm clock, mount the camera on it, set the cameraphone to record to the mini sd, sneak inside someone's room and record what they do all day. On second thought, the deodorant can isn't a good idea because it will most likely get thrown out. By the way, does anyone know the privacy laws in Australia?

monkeyslayer56 (author)2009-08-13

also wireup a button into another button to start/stop recoreding that would be easy(im thinking arduino and python)

Would be easier to use a piece of software to use a joystick to control apps and mod the joystick so its one  button

ptacnik (author)2009-10-01

black buttons could camouflage the camera better i think

alfio01 (author)2009-09-25

Great idea! I had also thought of being able to put the cam in a sweatshirt hood so that it can record back to lectures

mytischemagie (author)2009-08-21

WoW this is sooo.... wow!!! im gonna try it ;)

stealthy329 (author)2009-08-07

whoa dude!! that is so friggin cool!! thanx 4 postin that. that is very helpful to me.

Lance Mt. (author)2009-07-20

Useful but could you experiment with either mics and/or walky-talky although i do like that.

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