Life on Camera


Admit it most if us have gone to the movies and come out dreaming, “one day that could be me”. As our heads fill of fantasy, cameras flashing, nice clothes, big houses etc..It seems a very romantic life.  But as we look around us today it is becoming more apparent that we are becoming a society that is always on camera.  We see video posts via Facebook, Twitter, YouTube etc..These are then increased in velocity as mainstream media picks them up and distributes via our television to the world. We live in a time where we go from anonymity to fame in a few beats of the human heart. Weather that fame is warranted or desired is a question only for the star or the victim.  It does raise questions of privacy and our obligation to our fellow human being.  Video has become so prevalent that we have become a society immune to its impact and at times the volume of what we witness via a screen becomes clouded and overbearing.  As much as Edward Snowden fights for our privacy against tyrannical governments, he did not go far enough as our beloved capitalism seeks to enhance revenues by taking every click and trying to learn about us and how better to monetize every human being on earth.  The ability of video to capture every aspect of our daily lives knows no boarders, as much as we try to define, the more clouded it becomes.

Rodney King was a violent case study of what can go wrong in race relations, but I feel in the end that is not at all what Rodney King has come to signify.  What he signified was one of the first instances where someone using a camera caught on tape and distributed via local media, and then watched it then go viral via global media.  It was the first instance that empowered an individual to hold law enforcement accountable for its actions . This was 1992, so it was pre-internet, but it showed the power of an individual to shape human events.  Since the LA riots of 1992  we have been increasingly been fed a diet of negative content via the web,  Journalism has left the hands to the newspaper reporter to private hands as technology has empowered us all to report and comment on the day’s news.  I am skeptical of much of it as it usually reads like a USA Today headline and I am stuck having to search for the full story before making commentary.  Unfortunately it seems most of society only has the attention span for the USA Today headline.  What came out of Rodney King, as horrific as it was to watch, has been overall positive for society at large.  The law is important for any stable democratic society to succeed, however when abused we are all left a little bit less

If we fast forward to today I would not want to be in law enforcement these days.  Before the advances in technology it was already a high stress job.  Periodically via mass media we would hear of mistakes and crooked cops (a Hollywood tradition).  Now it seems on a daily basis  we are fed a regular diet of illegal and horrific cop shootings. This morning I saw a video of police taking a black man to the hospital. He was unruly when they got to the hospital so they tasered him repeatedly and took him into custody and drove back to the police station. He died one hour later.  I wish this was a singular incident, but it seems like we see this kind of thing on television everyday.  These lead to civic unrest and a general lack of faith in law enforcement.  The question becomes is this a good or bad thing?  It is positive in that in roots out some generally bad police practices in certain police departments, the down side is it has led to a generalization of our views of law enforcement.  I think many have a poor view of law enforcement these days based not on who they know but on what they see.  The fact that many cities will have cameras on police officials moving forward will hopefully lead as to have better faith in our local police officers, but it is up to the media to paint a complete picture.

This may all sound negative but law enforcement has been active with technology as well.  Many are looking at drones as a form of surveillance.  Little cameras in the sky, scouting to see if any illegal activity is occurring in areas that used to be out of their reach.  Many city councils have shut these down, but in the end I believe this will be a reality as the private sector lobby’s to allow them to ship products via drone.  But as this happens law enforcement will say should we not have the right as well? That is all still a ways in the future, but then I ask has anyone received a speeding ticket via mail?  Or perhaps you were in a HOV lane for a 100 feet and received notice you needed to pay $2.50 for use of such lane (for my 3 readers in Brazil this is an express lane which in some areas in the US you pay a monthly fee for)?  Can we argue these fees?  No the rules are clear and if you want to contest they have the video to show you. For local governments it is kind of like printing money.

Beyond the dramatics of criminal activity we see on video we now will have cameras everywhere in the skies as drones multiply and now have to be registered with the FAA.  The challenge with having so many eyes in the sky is how to define parameters.  Amazon is taking a lead as it wants to distribute all packages under 5 lbs via drone. Great.  Problem is those Amazon eyes will witness a lot of things and store those somewhere in the cloud.  If a crime is being committed is Amazon supposed to report? I would hope so.  If you are doing something embarrassingly inappropriate poolside does that get stored in the cloud?   When you answer the door to receive your package does the Amazon eye scan your attire to use to profile you and send new items to sell you?  Does it look behind you to do a quick scan of your entry way?  Do you have paintings? Frames? Plants?  A new world of scenarios,where do your rights to privacy begin and end?

Any building you walk into has camera’s focused on you.  The lobby of a high-rise.  The stair case at the local YMCA, where they even have a sign that says “smile you are on camera”.  A convenience store.  The bank, obvious.  The parking garage, I hope so.  All this content that is created needs to be stored for future reference.  It just dies not go away.As we have learned in the world of terrorism everyone leaves a digital trail.  Committing a robbery these days in the old-fashioned way seems rather dumb as we usually have video of the criminal doing the act.  Beyond the obvious remember that the mundane is being regularly captured. Walking up the stairs, if you have an embarrassing itch that is also captured.  Though you may feel alone you are not and probably never will be.

Thanks to the camera on your XBox, a scenario at Microsoft was it would be great to see how are users are interacting with our technology.  As far as I know they did not do that because they were not invited into people’s homes,  It does however tell us that the internet is not just people at home looking out onto the web, it also provides companies, individuals, governments etc..the ability to look into our daily lives.  The cameras that come with every smart phone, tablet and laptop are the seeing eyes of the internet universe.  This extends into the world of social media as most content today ia Twitter or Facebook is actually video content.

Video is nearly omnipresent now.  It is capturing more and more of our lives as it happens.  In our homes.  At our work. It is a peeping Tom paradise.  We may all just give up on clothes.  It has created a new world of terror while allowing us to combat crimes in ways once limited to movies.  Every time we log onto access the web we are foregoing some of our preconceived notions of privacy.  Orwell’s Big Brother still rings clearly, but his classic “1984” was more influenced by the absolute power and tyranny of Stalin’s U.S.SR.   The big brother of today will be more of a hybrid between the private and public sector.  In our desire for consumption we sacrifice much of our privacy to both government and corporations.  On the web we get so many notices of compliance and agreement that if we took the time to read and understand every legal disclaimer we would literally have time for nothing else.  In addition some bright PhD or group of really smart people will develop an algorithm that will crawl the web and search for every reference, photo and video of a person and stitch them together thus documenting a persons entire life from birth to death and put it on a thumb drive. How heart warming.

Good Night and Good Luck

Hans Henrik Hoffmann December 17, 2015

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