Recording evidence covertly
Though covert methods of recording information (such as hidden cameras) are most commonly associated with undercover meetings or company visits (which should not be attempted without specialist training), an understanding of covert recording methods and equipment is also useful in other contexts. They are of use when undercover contacts are being made with companies by telephone, and when documenting testimony obtained through informal conversations with loggers and truck drivers during field work. Covert or semi-covert recording may also be a useful means of reducing risk when documenting visual evidence during fieldwork, where open filming and photography is likely to bring undue attention or arouse suspicion.
Voice recorders can be used to record telephone conversations when held to the ear, and informal interviews if secreted in a pocket or bag. Covert video can be recorded using adapted mobile phones, specially equipped bags, or even using body-worn lenses, and used to document conversations, documents, timber markings and other field findings without attracting as much attention as open filming. Still images can be extracted from undercover video. With practice, standard video and stills cameras can be used semi-covertly, by holding them at waist level and shooting without looking. Smartphones can also be used to take surreptitious photographs, though care is required to ensure shutter sound and flash functions are turned off. Whatever equipment is used, it is essential that operators practice thoroughly in advance, and ensure that memory cards are empty and batteries full before each meeting.