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They have also become a source of security and privacy issues, as some built-in webcams can be remotely activated by spyware.
The most popular use of webcams is the establishment of video links, permitting computers to act as videophones or videoconference stations.
Video calling support has also been added to several popular instant messaging programs. Software is available to allow PC-connected cameras to watch for movement and sound, a computer e-mailed images of the burglar during the theft of the computer, enabling the owner to give police a clear picture of the burglar's face even after the computer had been stolen.
The Webcam Social Shopper is one example of software that utilizes the webcam in this manner.
Webcam can be added to instant messaging, text chat services such as AOL Instant Messenger, and Vo IP services such as Skype, one-to-one live video communication over the Internet has now reached millions of mainstream PC users worldwide.
Unauthorized access of webcams can present significant privacy issues (see "Privacy" section below).
In December 2011, Russia announced that 290,000 Webcams would be installed in 90,000 polling stations to monitor the Russian presidential election, 2012.
Video features, including faces, shapes, models and colors can be observed and tracked to produce a corresponding form of control.