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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.
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.
Improved video quality has helped webcams encroach on traditional video conferencing systems.
Webcams may be installed at places such as childcare centres, offices, shops and private areas to monitor security and general activity.
Other popular uses include security surveillance, computer vision, video broadcasting, and for recording social videos.
The video streams provided by webcams can be used for a number of purposes, each using appropriate software: Most modern webcams are capable of capturing arterial pulse rate by the use of a simple algorithmic trick.
With very-low-light capability, a few specific models of webcams are very popular to photograph the night sky by astronomers and astro photographers.
Mostly, these are manual-focus cameras and contain an old CCD array instead of comparatively newer CMOS array.