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Small digital cameras, the web and the crowd.
November 12, 2010 9:18 AM   Subscribe

With video cameras becoming increasing smaller, cheaper and ubiquitous, questions are arising about the use of them on multiple levels, from governments monitoring their citizens, to private citizens keeping an eye on government and each other.

The latter issue is highlighted in videos of an altercation that occurred when an American postal worker attempted to deliver a certified letter to a woman. After signing for the letter, she attempted to get the card verifying her receipt of the letter back. The postal worker refused and a violent interaction occurred, which the postal recorded on his cell phone and posted to YouTube (1,2, news article). The video has prompted several internet communities to find out who the woman is, raising more questions about the line between public and private use of digital cameras and the wisdom of the crowd.
posted by nomadicink (83 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
i predicted this.

somewhat on topic. "Better late than never," Mr. Barton said. "I am glad more and more folks, in the government and otherwise, are beginning to realize that there is a war against privacy."
posted by clavdivs at 9:29 AM on November 12, 2010


How far off are we from cameras that can be inserted into an eye or contact lens? Once that happens, we can all kiss any traditional definition of privacy goodbye forever.
posted by The Card Cheat at 9:29 AM on November 12, 2010


FWIW -- previous deleted FPP: Postal Worker Secretly Films Customer's Racist Rant.
posted by ericb at 9:31 AM on November 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


In related news: Boston Police Fight Cellphone Recordings -- "Witnesses taking audio of officers arrested, charged with illegal surveillance."
posted by ericb at 9:33 AM on November 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


ISWYDT.
posted by clvrmnky at 9:36 AM on November 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


How far off are we from cameras that can be inserted into an eye or contact lens?

I know that just before the most recent fieldtrip about two months ago, my coworker suggested he get this cool new spectacle frame which came with built in cameras.

War against Privacy?

Is that meant to imply that the people don't want privacy or that the powers that be don't want the people to have privacy?
posted by The Lady is a designer at 9:41 AM on November 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


you do realize that ubiquitous cameras and cloud-based recording lead to time travel, right? this will be the earliest era you can go back to. i, for one, think every time i pick my nose in the car should be preserved for all eternity. (i have a nice nose, and long, delicate fingers)
posted by sexyrobot at 9:51 AM on November 12, 2010


How far off are we from cameras that can be inserted into an eye or contact lens? Once that happens, we can all kiss any traditional definition of privacy goodbye forever.

Might as well make 'em backscatter contact lens cameras. Then we can sell them in the backs of comic books and reap untold fortunes.
posted by theredpen at 9:52 AM on November 12, 2010 [4 favorites]


Hey. just today in hometown news... Top Cop: You’re Arrested For Videotaping Us

I'm sure police have their valid reasons for disallowing recordings, but we've all been just about raised on "Cops", the Rodney King trial, and other reality TV which shows police in-car recordings. Hard to believe it took so long for this to become a national deal.
posted by drowsy at 9:55 AM on November 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


David Brin predicted this in Earth. He also wrote a Transparent Society where he suggests (and I agree) that surveillance technology is just going to get smaller and more ubiquitous. Since we can't really get the genie back into the bottle the only real question is going to be will Surveillance be just for The Powerful(tm) or do we set up laws to allow EVERYBODY to watch EVERYONE? A quest for Transparency, in his view, trumps that of Privacy.
posted by Wink Ricketts at 9:59 AM on November 12, 2010 [7 favorites]


Maybe you shouldn't have linked to that page that names the woman, her location, and place of work. Don't get me wrong - I'm all in favor of publicly outing that evil, nasty creature, but I haven't seen any sort of proof anywhere that the woman named is the same as the woman in the video.
posted by item at 9:59 AM on November 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Cameras are already being put in (an) eye socket
posted by oonh at 10:00 AM on November 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


With video cameras becoming increasing smaller, cheaper and ubiquitous

For me, it's the information processing technology used on the footage that is actually scary. So what if someone can record everything that goes on a street during an entire week? You've been able to do that for decades, completely legally. The problem arises when you have sophisticated software that can scan those hundreds and hundreds of hours of footage to find patterns and analyse the data.

Privacy has never existed in the 'public' world for years (see any paparazzi/gossip mag) but the problem is that technology is fundamentally changing 'public' into something entirely different that still remains within the current legal confines of privacy laws. If I'm on the street and someone takes my photo, it's not great, but I'm not worried. Hell, in London, I'm caught on CCTV all the time. I start getting uncomfortable when several hundred hours of my public comings and goings are analysed by a company or a government...
posted by slimepuppy at 10:03 AM on November 12, 2010


In at least three states (Illinois, Massachusetts, and Maryland), it is now illegal to record an on-duty police officer even if the encounter involves you...

Wouldn't the police departments want to have the officers' encounters recorded? How is the public supposed to decipher this? Based on this, we can only assume that the cops, when encountered in the above 3 states, will completely violate all of your rights. This seems fucked up to me.
posted by weezy at 10:05 AM on November 12, 2010 [4 favorites]


Well, commodification means the panopticon is all of us everywhere. That's been clear for some time, and the real collapse here isn't so much about the wisdom of crowds as it is about the failure of more quote-traditional-unquote media (literally "that which stands between") to be able to direct our attention in the way the 6:00 news used to.

As for the "war on privacy", that's essentially over. It turns out virtually nobody cares about it, and it turns out that caring intensely about it, and compartmentalizing your life accordingly, isn't enough; because you're a member of society, and participating in society requires you to emit data in some way, it's now possible to take the limited amount of information about you and algorithmically fill in the blanks into what is statistically a shockingly accurate (and only going to get more so, as you continue to exist) model of you as a single human.

Interestingly, the implication of that is that the more people don't care about their own privacy, the more, for those who do care, their defensive measures become irrelevant.

Which is not to say there's wisdom in crowds, any more than there's wisdom in the random actions of a single gas particle, but when you get enough of them together, suddenly pv=nrT and you're able to make broadly testable assertions.

I used to think that pervasive information would be democratizing, but increasingly I think that all it does is swamp the individual; what hasn't been democratized in any way is the ability to view and understand this stuff in large-number aggregate, and that's where all the power is. That and the ability of the random stranger to put the worst day of your life on Youtube, which isn't exactly a force for good.
posted by mhoye at 10:06 AM on November 12, 2010 [5 favorites]


Thuggish cops can protect themselves by tattooing corporate sponsors' logos on their faces and then claiming copyright infringement against any posted police brutality videos where the officer's face isn't blurred.
posted by K'an at 10:07 AM on November 12, 2010 [4 favorites]


>David Brin predicted this in Earth. He also wrote a Transparent Society where he suggests (and I agree) that surveillance technology is just going to get smaller and more ubiquitous. Since we can't really get the genie back into the bottle the only real question is going to be will Surveillance be just for The Powerful(tm) or do we set up laws to allow EVERYBODY to watch EVERYONE? A quest for Transparency, in his view, trumps that of Privacy.
posted by Wink Ricketts at 9:59 AM on November 12 [+] [!]


Following up on what Mr. Ricketts said, it just so appears that technology is satisfying an already existing need (or curiosity/novelty if it tickles your fancy). It's use and misuse, just like anything else, depends which hands its lands into. And if it lands into everyone's hands, well...
Coming from Soviet Russia, where spying on your neighbor was so commonplace it was actively encouraged, I was so happy to find myself surrounded by folks who live in the world where big brother is not such an obviously dominant part of the family. However, people here, it appears suffer from a different kind, slighly more subtle panopticism. And cameras only perpetuate an already existing order of "See something, say something".
posted by mooselini at 10:15 AM on November 12, 2010


In related news:
"An MBTA customer service agent has been fired after a recent altercation with a rider. Stuart Wilkerson told WHDH-TV that he tried to take a picture of the employee with his cellphone camera after he complained that she gave him the wrong train directions to Providence, then refused to tell him her name. Wilkerson said the employee hit him in the face and knocked the phone out of his hand. MBTA general manager Richard Davey said the worker, who was not identified, was fired after video of the incident was reviewed. Davey said it appeared the customer was more hostile than he should have been under the circumstances, but the reaction of the agent 'was far too aggressive’' and would not be tolerated on the transit system."*
posted by ericb at 10:26 AM on November 12, 2010


TLadyIAD.
The link I tossed is about consumer issues for the most part. I just wonder if this legal framework will be used for other aspects concerning internet and "real world" privacy.

IMO, Private citizens have a tendicy of using these instruments for "spying" as much if not more then governments. I believe the important question to ask is what is the intent for using just devices, and how will government address it.

In Michigan you must have consent to record a two party conversation. This is to help against entrapment.

How far off are we from cameras that can be inserted into an eye or contact lens? Once that happens, we can all kiss any traditional definition of privacy goodbye forever.

not so, current technology does not alllow this to viable in espionage tool because of count-measures, even if the device goes passive.

what concerns me is the use of government setting up "watch dog" groups. "Citizen patrols etc."
this could give a private citizen to much power. Filming a criminal act is one thing, seeking out that criminal act is another.
posted by clavdivs at 10:27 AM on November 12, 2010


What is funny is that here, in Chicago, there is a blue-box camera at 6 corners within a mile of my home, and that these boxes film cops EVERY DAY. Is that illegal? Is it illegal for the shop owners to surreptitiously tape police officers working? These same shop owners, who, to my recollection, were solicited by the City of Chicago, to join their shop's surveillance cameras to City's network of public cameras? Nonsense. All nonsense.
posted by zerobyproxy at 10:27 AM on November 12, 2010


'as an'
heh
posted by clavdivs at 10:29 AM on November 12, 2010


I'm sure police have their valid reasons for disallowing recordings

Valid to them, perhaps, but not to the pursuit of justice.
posted by hippybear at 10:32 AM on November 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


Though not public, there is the matter concerning destruction of evidence.
posted by clavdivs at 10:39 AM on November 12, 2010


what concerns me is the use of government setting up "watch dog" groups. "Citizen patrols etc."
this could give a private citizen to much power. Filming a criminal act is one thing, seeking out that criminal act is another.


1984
posted by The Lady is a designer at 10:41 AM on November 12, 2010


I find the letter carrier incident strange indeed. In many if not most countries, assaulting postal workers is a felony (presumably to deter criminal from attacking mail trucks on the off chance there are bearer bonds inside). IANAL, but if recall correctly, under the Criminal Code of my country, she would theoretically be facing life imprisonment for what is shown here. If indeed this would be inadmissible evidence because she did not consent to it, that seems to raise even more questions. Documenting a crime without the accused criminal's consent is illegal?
posted by ricochet biscuit at 10:43 AM on November 12, 2010


A intersting fictional example of privacy and government is Doyles. 'A Scandal in Bohemia'.

The 'one woman' out smarted all parties involved
posted by clavdivs at 10:50 AM on November 12, 2010


It's not something the government or anybody else can stop. Nothing as cheap or ubiquitous as recording devices will be in the very near future can be stopped. They can make it inadmissible in court and they can even make it illegal, but they can't make it stop. In just a few decades, everything in the vicinity of most human beings is going to be recorded and processed.
posted by callmejay at 10:56 AM on November 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


1984. i was thinking that but there was a nuclear war which people led themselves into that nightmare. perhaps that is the point.
posted by clavdivs at 10:56 AM on November 12, 2010


I've actually been assaulted by the cops before. Nowadays, I always carry a set of watercolours, and if a police officer approaches me I just set up a small canvas and record the whole incident.

I've sent a couple of complaints to the Police Commissioner about their conduct, based on these recordings. He said I have real talent, and the muted tones of the water-based medium really conveys the fluid nature of the Police's violent, bloody brutality.
posted by the quidnunc kid at 10:57 AM on November 12, 2010 [13 favorites]


It's all big government vs. exposing police brutality until the banal reality hits and we're all going to be on web pages celebrating the embarrassing moments like picking a booger at a stoplight, or scratching your ass crack in the WalMart checkout line.
posted by BrotherCaine at 11:03 AM on November 12, 2010


do you have something in pastel:)
posted by clavdivs at 11:05 AM on November 12, 2010


scratching your ass crack in the WalMart checkout line.
to counter that i would posit but what about the 6 i have of so and so.

it becomes a very easy game of gottcha, guilt by association, entrapment vendetta, camera decked jettas, and Oh, you have had to many marga rettas.

It is Sisyphus with cameraphone hoping to wave the drinks cart his way.
posted by clavdivs at 11:14 AM on November 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


The 'one woman' out smarted all parties involved

No wonder she was the only one he never forgot, for all his odd idiosyncrasies.

Re: 1984 - In a sad way, it need not be nuclear war per se, it doesn't make economic sense to go that far, however sometimes something very small can be blown out of proportion to lead towards almost the exact same thing, at less environmental damage and cost.

Another thought is that of Harrison Bergeron and A Brave New World. It seems that its more of a mashup of these three rather than any one, but then again, each writer was looking at connecting the dots they were themselves looking at and then projecting, none wholly wrong, but pragmatically, none can be completely right either. I now wait for Gattacca, but it will come from the Eastern son.
posted by The Lady is a designer at 11:16 AM on November 12, 2010


Thuggish cops can protect themselves by tattooing corporate sponsors' logos on their faces and then claiming copyright infringement against any posted police brutality videos where the officer's face isn't blurred.

That's so going into Untitled Science Fiction Project.
posted by JHarris at 11:20 AM on November 12, 2010


Wouldn't the police departments want to have the officers' encounters recorded?
Only if they control the creation, use, and, if necessary, unfortunate loss, of the recording.
posted by Thorzdad at 11:21 AM on November 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


That's so going into Untitled Science Fiction Project.

If you happen to look at those cops and thus have a memory of them, is it your memory or the company's memory, and thus they can do what they want with it?
posted by nomadicink at 11:21 AM on November 12, 2010


One issue I rarely see addressed in these discussions is perhaps the most fundamental one: why is privacy valuable? Advocates seem to simply take it for granted that it's a valuable thing worth preserving, yet rarely articulate why. slimepuppy said above that "I start getting uncomfortable when several hundred hours of my public comings and goings are analysed by a company or a government..." But why? The concern over government monitoring is more obvious, as that can have serious legal consequences, but I often see complaints and screeds against collecting data for ad agencies. For instance, people often sneer at Facebook users who don't bother trying to lock down their private info and so leave it to be mined by companies. But what do you tell such a person when they ask, "So what if companies know my habits and tastes? What does it matter?"

As said above, "As for the "war on privacy", that's essentially over. It turns out virtually nobody cares about it..." Which is why talk of 1984 is such a red herring: ubiquitous surveillance isn't going to be installed by the government, it's going to be created by the average person. The government can just sit back and sift through the mountains of data freely provided.
posted by Sangermaine at 11:23 AM on November 12, 2010 [5 favorites]



If you happen to look at those cops and thus have a memory of them, is it your memory or the company's memory, and thus they can do what they want with it?

Or you could buy it back wholesale

Which is why talk of 1984 is such a red herring: ubiquitous surveillance isn't going to be installed by the government, it's going to be created by the average person. The government can just sit back and sift through the mountains of data freely provided.

The end result is the same no?
posted by The Lady is a designer at 11:26 AM on November 12, 2010


So, flinging an idea here. In societies where we've grown used to pervasive surveillance, and to an expectation of swift and brutal punishment for observed transgressions, is a willingness to participate in it just becoming part of us? Have we just assimilated it. And it us.

We hate the cameras, while carrying cameras ourselves; hate the permanent record, but upload video of unacceptable behaviors to youtube; despise violent police, yet are ever willing to join the mob and act as jury and judge in forums like this (or more, the rowdier version earlier tonight).

Perhaps those contradictions aren't felt as such precisely because all the shit we're hating is already the dominant logic, the paradigm for now, the discourse of surveillance and punishment as practiced in 21st century life. It's culture that's constructive of self in action, and we're cheerfully lapping it up and becoming our own jailers.

Big words. And I'm fucked if I really know.

For sure, crazy racist lady is crazy and racist. And that seems to deserve public censure, but I think I'm uncomfortable participating in a rowdy and possibly violent shadow play of state sponsored forms of authority to achieve that.

It just seems that if I want to object to the cameras, the records, and the summary nature of contemporary justice, I ought to start by doing it on the home front.

It really is just an idea.

And having voiced it, I'm off to steal some recipes on the internet. Goodnight.
posted by Ahab at 11:33 AM on November 12, 2010 [3 favorites]


doyle knew the secret rule which i will not defulge under penatlity that my sister was an LT.
Doyle knew, even due to his misconceptions (as we see them now), that a women is superior in these matters. It is logic to me. I cannot prove it but the private spying rage concerning the internet is in due to large part of women trying catch the cheat @vice verse.

Re: 1984 - In a sad way, it need not be nuclear war per se,
correct. I did not think that through, even orwell would have stated the tennts of his novels condition do not mean they will be a nuke blow out...he even sets it Britian as a see it could happen anywhere.

Harrison Bergeron and A Brave New World
off the top of me head, a Wonka "yhAhsss"
Gattica is my lite-ray comparison. yes in deed. he had to by pass the retnas..that was the whole ball of get me aboard. yes. yes.
posted by clavdivs at 11:33 AM on November 12, 2010


Dear bigots: saying "I'm not prejudiced" immediately before or after saying something face-meltingly prejudiced does not magically transform your hate speech into baskets of puppies and kittens.

"I'm not prejudiced, but us white people are going to kill you, n—r." I mean, what? I honestly wonder whether this woman is mentally ill.
posted by ixohoxi at 11:34 AM on November 12, 2010


If anyone is talking about Nineteen Eighty-Four, I just want to remind everyone the omnipresent Big Brother was surveilling the people via transciever devices, mostly. They both transmitted propaganda and received information about the people viewing and in the vicinity of these. The remainder of the surveillance was a little more Stasi-like, if I recall.

I'm just trying to think of some sort of mechanism we have today that may be a more comparable device. Something that has upstream and downstream deliverance of information, allowing the government to simultaneously monitor the citizens, while enforcing its agenda.

Maybe some subtle military creation placed in the hands of common citizens, but heavily regulated by the government's centralized and overbearing economic sector. Its gotta provide numerical and textual data, syntax for better social programming, as well as episodic logs (audio/visual, preferably).

Anyone think of anything?
posted by Bathtub Bobsled at 11:42 AM on November 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


Anyone think of anything?

Furbies.
posted by Faint of Butt at 11:47 AM on November 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


Anyone think of anything?

i like spoons, they are useful.

hmm, to what end this matrix like device?
posted by clavdivs at 11:49 AM on November 12, 2010


Here's a great case showing why we need protection for video recording of police:

Several months ago, a freelance videographer videotaped a Seattle police officer kicking and threatening to ""beat the fucking Mexican piss" out of a robbery suspect. The suspect turned out to be not involved in the robbery. The video was widely viewed and resulted in the officer apologizing for his behavior.

Just this past week, another victim has come forward saying that the same officer choked him while he was in custody in a police car.

There are at least three separate video sources for that incident. The patrol car's cameras was left off until long after the victim was placed in the car. The owner of the restaurant says his video was erased. And the video from inside the jail where he was brought isn't being released to the public.

This is why we need comprehensive legal protection for citizen recording of police and other government officials.
posted by formless at 12:00 PM on November 12, 2010 [3 favorites]


Keep in mind that in the next 5 or 10 years we're probably going to see consumer-level software that allows users to monkey around dynamically with shapes and textures, maybe even entire objects, in a video. By then I doubt we'll even know for sure where any given video is real or fake.
posted by crapmatic at 12:15 PM on November 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


nevermind cellphones. for less than $20 including shipping you can get something that looks like a car alarm remote keychain thing that will take over and hour of video.
posted by rmd1023 at 12:20 PM on November 12, 2010


One issue I rarely see addressed in these discussions is perhaps the most fundamental one: why is privacy valuable?

This is a good question and I think it's important to periodically revisit it; you're correct, IMO, that too frequently it's just taken on premise. There are a number of good reasons, though.

At one end of the spectrum you have people like political dissidents and the threat of persistent nonstop surveillance being used to quash dissent, and in general to more firmly entrench the power structure. People may be willing to take a stand, or just express interest, in something controversial anonymously, but unwilling to do so if they know that it might get back to their boss/neighbors/family/etc.

But the ramifications on our personal lives, just as average unexciting people, will have more significant effects in the long run, I believe.

Many people — I would argue most people — aren't exactly the same person all the time, in all contexts. Someone might act one way while at the office, surrounded by their coworkers, and a different way when hanging around with their old college buddies, and another way with their family at Thanksgiving dinner. A transparent society could make these sort of context switches much more difficult, unless we also change the rules of propriety to compensate (i.e. make everyone understand that it's rude to call them out for something that you read on their Facebook profile when they were acting in a different social context).

I've run across people who don't seem to have any firewalling between various parts of their life, who literally act the same way to everyone, all the time. On some level I envy these people but more often I think it's a bit of a (sometimes self-imposed) handicap. At any rate I think it's a minority position. Most people don't think of themselves as having secrets, but I suspect most people have different segments of their lives that they would at least like to control the flow of information between.

A whole lot of polite society is maintained behind a screen of ... perhaps not 'lies', exactly, but of mutually agreed-upon or at least tolerated fictions. It's a kabuki dance that relies on privacy, of each participant not being able to know — without a lot of effort, anyway — too much about the lives of the other participants beyond what they're shown. When you eliminate privacy and make it trivial for people to peer into their friends and neighbors and parents' and children's private lives — the parts that aren't deliberately shared — then things get weird.

My personal feeling is that the "death of privacy" is a fait accompli; many people will cheerfully give up lots of 'privacy' in order to build better connections with their friends (Facebook) or as part of a dimly-understood commercial transaction in return for services rendered (Google). This trend shows no signs of stopping, and I think fighting it directly is fruitless.

Rather, I think we need to start thinking about the social rules and mores that are going to keep us from murdering each other over Facebook status updates or YouTube videos. These rules are evolving all the time but they're still pretty plastic, and can be shaped by a concerted effort.

There are lots of things that we could do, but don't: some of them we don't do because they're illegal, but more we don't do because they're immoral, or maybe just downright impolite. A lot of technology discussions focus on what we have or will have the physical capability of doing (say, recording everything using little head-mounted video cameras with a 6-hour rolling buffer and then uploading the spicy bits to the net), but not whether such conduct ought to be tolerated in the society we want to live in.

Things get ugly when technology manages to outpace society's collective ideas about the appropriate use of that same technology. Trying to slow down the pace of technological development isn't going to work (and would be a bad idea if it did); so instead we need to be better about devising and promulgating the rules — not in the form of laws, but social norms — for how to use it, in ways that let us still get along.
posted by Kadin2048 at 12:43 PM on November 12, 2010 [7 favorites]


Anyone think of anything?

She in LOTR ? Or is this scrying into a bowl of spit that I'm thinking of? *scratches head, knocks off resident nanobot*
posted by The Lady is a designer at 12:51 PM on November 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


It looks as if the recent public scrutiny of online privacy and data collection, including controversial reports on the issue from the Wall Street Journal, have rattled the Obama Administration. The Journal itself reports this morning that the White House is about to unveil new legal proposals to control the industry and suggest a new watchdog to oversee Internet privacy. Linked to dutifully
posted by The Lady is a designer at 1:00 PM on November 12, 2010


It's a kabuki dance... the parts that aren't deliberately shared — then things get weird.

I Noh what you mean.

But the ramifications on our personal lives, just as average unexciting people, will have more significant effects in the long run, I believe.

It puts the indivdual into a state of un-ease akin to espionage. In the trade, one is told: assume you are watched at all times. An agent uses his/her skills to circumnavigate surveillance, creating the need for more watchers, more counter-measures etc. Yes, ugly they are and we cannot expect people to behave like intelligence agencies.
posted by clavdivs at 1:23 PM on November 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


The end result is the same no?

No, I don't think so, because this "1984" idea leads to a misunderstanding of the problem of the erosion of privacy, if you consider it a problem. It's not being imposed on us top-down by some evil bureaucracy bent on controlling us. It's growing bottom-up; we're building our own panopticon. Aiming at an imaginary Big Brother is the wrong tactic in the modern world. If you're really concerned, you should be aiming at your fellow citizen and trying to educate them about what you see as the dangers of the loss of privacy.
posted by Sangermaine at 1:27 PM on November 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


The government can just sit back and sift through the mountains of data freely provided.

But this is what really bothers me.

It puts the indivdual into a state of un-ease akin to espionage.

And this is why.

So educating my neighbours in the workplace and home isn't going to really help much if the continuing proliferation of everybody zapping everything online and onto youtube just makes it easier for those who wish to watch to watch.

Take FireSheep for example, didn't it start as a joke? But that doesn't mean it doesn't exist nor that it wouldn't be used.

What we're talking about here is less to do with top down or bottom up, that, frankly is immaterial. The issue is closer to Alfred Nobel's problem of having invented technology, for better or for worse.

Hmm...
posted by The Lady is a designer at 1:45 PM on November 12, 2010


The Journal itself reports this morning that the White House is about to unveil new legal proposals to control the industry and suggest a new watchdog to oversee Internet privacy. Linked to dutifully*

*Offer valid only at participating locations. Offer does not apply to NSA and other federal agencies. Offer requires purchase of new bureaucratic agency. Additional surcharges may apply to small businesses to comply with offer.
posted by formless at 1:48 PM on November 12, 2010 [3 favorites]


David Brin predicted this in Earth

i predicted this.

This is like predicting we will run out of oil one day. That is, not really a prediction, but something completely obvious.

For me, it's the information processing technology used on the footage that is actually scary.

Or other post-production processing that can make it look like maybe that's you fucking a goat on that recording, when it's not you.

On the other hand, that could invalidate video evidence completely. Or what crapmatic said.

Another thought is that of Harrison Bergeron and A Brave New World.

I've always thought that Brave New World/Island were not as dystopian/utopian as most readers think.

And having voiced it, I'm off to steal some recipes on the internet.

If there's one thing I've learned on MetaFilter, it's that recipes aren't copyrightable.

This is why we need comprehensive legal protection for citizen recording of police and other government officials.

What is the argument against? Is there any real argument against?
posted by mrgrimm at 2:02 PM on November 12, 2010


The Smoking Gun: Vile Viral Video Star's Raging Past -- "YouTube rant not first time New England woman went postal."
posted by ericb at 2:09 PM on November 12, 2010


*Offer valid only at participating locations. Offer does not apply to NSA and other federal agencies. Offer requires purchase of new bureaucratic agency. Additional surcharges may apply to small businesses to comply with offer

Note:

has upgraded its Supplier Diversity Portal (SDP) to streamline data gathering from our diverse suppliers.

Unfortunately, this change required resetting your username and password for the Supplier Diversity Portal.
posted by The Lady is a designer at 2:09 PM on November 12, 2010


'Around Hingham Blog' || November 1, 2010: Racism In Hingham? You Must Watch This Outrageous Video And Decide For Yourself.
posted by ericb at 2:13 PM on November 12, 2010


Gawker: Postal Worker Secretly Films Customer's Racist Rant. || Meet the Volvo-Driving Racist Mailman Harasser.
posted by ericb at 2:17 PM on November 12, 2010


FOX News: Woman slaps postal worker amid racist rant.
posted by ericb at 2:19 PM on November 12, 2010


Or you could buy it back wholesale

Why, they go on sale at half price around the holidays.

One issue I rarely see addressed in these discussions is perhaps the most fundamental one: why is privacy valuable?

Doesn't the answer vary based on the person? Shouldn't the default be to assume or give privacy and let the individual decide whether to keep it?

slimepuppy said above that "I start getting uncomfortable when several hundred hours of my public comings and goings are analysed by a company or a government..." But why?

Because the information could be used out of context to present a negative or even false portrayal of the individual. Because it's not necessary to know everything about someone. This ranges from minor or major levels, for example a person noticing their spouse is in one place via a public camera, when the spouse said they'd be in another. Now, the spouse could be having an affair or buying a gift for their SO. The point is that their choice to do X is now being questioned, perhaps for good reasons, perhaps not. The camera, in this instance, can easily show things out of context.

Does an individual have the right to secrets from others in society? Most people would probably agree, but also acknowledge there are limits i.e. you don't have the right to keep the bodies in your basement a secret, to take a an extreme case. So where's the limit?
posted by nomadicink at 2:21 PM on November 12, 2010


"[Erica Winchester] once threatened a cop that she would 'chop off' his genitals after he arrested her for trespassing at a community theater rehearsal where she warned cast members they would 'get it with a machine gun...'"*
posted by ericb at 2:23 PM on November 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


This is like predicting we will run out of oil one day. That is, not really a prediction, but something completely obvious.

Regression analysis actually, i dont have a scanner for my journals but my take was apt. I used cameras and DNA markers only to come to my conclusion, that was 1992 and it was"predicted" long before. See N. Calder, 'technopolis' or Mumfords 'myth of the machine'....

maybe that's you fucking a goat on that recording
this was very popular in the old days and still is.

invalidate video evidence completely yeah, but it still leaves that stink.

I've always thought that Brave New World/Island were not as dystopian/utopian as most readers think.
lets have some fish then.

shit.... i gotta make dinner.
posted by clavdivs at 2:33 PM on November 12, 2010


Oh, a Fox link to the incident. I checked out the Boston Herald website a while ago to see what their commenters would say, but I didn't find the story -- a Fox comment board would probably be just as instructive.

I'm not sympathizing with this woman, although I pity her. She deserved punishment; this man deserves justice. But it's certainly not out of the question that she was a racist old Masshole protected by the old-boy network and that he was a lousy worker fired for cause (as the counter-narrative goes). I don't take any pleasure in what's going to happen to her, any more than if she were being devoured alive by flesh-eating ants at the end of this video; 4chan's interweb justice is about as terrible and over-the-top, at least in economic terms. And if she is mentally ill -- which it increasingly seems as if she is -- then shame on her husband or children, shame on whoever keeps her! Maybe this will get them to take better care of her, and keep her on meds and/or where she can't do this to innocent people.

But all we know is that the postman did not get what he wanted and he unleashed this video on the internet, to make someone pay. If I fail at life, somewhere that it's captured on camera, it could be me next, or you. It's enough to make me cross myself like a grandmother and pray: from the fury of the 4channers, Good Lord deliver us.
posted by Countess Elena at 4:15 PM on November 12, 2010


At a Long Now Foundation talk a couple of years ago someone asked sci-fi author Vernor Vinge what he thought about the coming "surveillance society". He said it was great, as the citizens would be better at surveilling the state than the other way around.

I'm starting to think he was right.
posted by Triplanetary at 4:23 PM on November 12, 2010 [3 favorites]


bingo
posted by clavdivs at 4:31 PM on November 12, 2010


The more miles I put on my bike (2000+ last year, almost all of it commute/utility riding in Oakland/Berkeley and San Francisco), the more I want a helmet cam. Especially after I read this. The next time some self-righteous road-raging jerk gets out of the car and comes at me because they're pissed I'm riding where both the law and safety say I should be, I would really like to get them on camera.
posted by Lexica at 4:52 PM on November 12, 2010


mrgrimm

i predicted someone would highlite that comment and refute it. most know better. sorry but that is the short of it.

There is an element of vapid reaction. yes thats. yes. What is of core concern is the state spying on the people with easier means, even to have the people culpable in this process. That is a bit Sun-Tzu NTL. What is at issue is the people spying on another which makes no sence because the government is by the people...goes the 'rolling rock'.
premises must have a stopping point and the answer needs to be bottled.

The subject matter is power, the states power over its people is it Laws. IMO. Use of military/police power is just an instrument in executing those laws. I leave out the courts as this inherent to the law.
Power. what is power to one if one cannot wield it, a sales?

Power. That was my conclusion, even with science that can invade our very bodies, the will to resist will exist and nay fall in such an attempt. This does not presuppose that this could not happen. always a new way i suppose, hence vigilance.
weird my example on preview disappered...that is spooky. NTL

perhaps for the best. I posit that Matt has more power over metafilter then anyone, even the Government because he can decide when to pull the switch (exercise of complete control) and turn it back on. his blowback is alot of WTF MATT.

the blowback if the government did this would be a bit more strident.

What is the argument against? Is there any real argument against?

argument against what?

Wisdom of the crowd
like jumbo shrimp
posted by clavdivs at 5:34 PM on November 12, 2010


We have entered the age of the warrentless drive by strip search.
posted by humanfont at 6:56 PM on November 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


humanfront. Lets us summon our scientific divsion to explain this new van.

'At 0.005 millirem (0.000 05 mSv) per scan, the constraint of 25 millirems (0.25 mSv) per year per source or
practice would be 5,000 scans per year (or 20 scans per day, 5 days per week, 50 weeks per year), an improbably high number for anyone.
Conclusions
We must question the potential for adverse health effects when introducing a new technology, especially those involving exposure to ionizing radiation. When placed in the context of the benefit of increased security....so that the notion of collective risk, spread out over a
huge population, is not meaningful.'

says you.
posted by clavdivs at 7:22 PM on November 12, 2010


i do recall a period in history when vans had a more omnious meaning.

oh at 9.5 million every neighborhood can have one wait 8.3 million gets you multiple ones.
posted by clavdivs at 7:32 PM on November 12, 2010


"The American obsession with subversive conspiracies of all kinds is deeply rooted in our history. Especially in times of stress, exaggerated febrile explanations of unwelcome reality come to the surface of American life and attract support. These recurrent countersubversive movements illuminate a striking contrast between our claims to superiority, indeed our mission as a redeemer nation to bring a new world order, and the extraordinary fragility of our confidence in our institutions. This contrast has led some observers to conclude that we are, subconsciously, quite insecure about the value and permanence of our society. More specifically, that American mobility detaches individuals from traditional sources of strength and identity-family, class, private associations--and leaves only economic status as a measure of worth. A resultant isolation and insecurity force a quest for selfhood in the national state, anxiety about imperiled heritage, and an agression against those who reject or question it."

-Frank Donner, 'Age of Surveillance', pg. 10, 1980.
posted by clavdivs at 10:12 PM on November 12, 2010


I kind of think surveillance is a good thing. In my ideal world every single person has a camera on them at all times, no exceptions. We'd have to radically change most of our laws once we realized what we all actually do all the time though. End of hypocrisy.

We are our brother's keeper and he's ours and that dude over in Egypt? He totally shouldn't have stolen that bread. But wait, we've got footage of the grocers in the town getting together and fixing prices. Complete and utter surveillance of everyone all the time everywhere eliminates corruption. It eliminates lies. Anything less is a disaster though.

No-one can be immune. The only way it'll work is if we accept that the governors are not above the law. No privacy. We'll eliminate shame, because everyone already knows. We'll eliminate the kabuki theatre that some people hold so dear. We threw out the corruption of the Victorians the hidden vices and the obscenity that lurked behind the facade, and God willing we will do it again.
posted by Peztopiary at 3:39 AM on November 13, 2010


What happens to introverts, people who prefer not to "let it all hang out" or "wash dirty linen in public" in your world? Or will this emerging panopticon result in more prescriptions for the anxiety of being always "on", whether you want to be or not? Must the entire community watch your personal life?
posted by The Lady is a designer at 3:50 AM on November 13, 2010


As for the "war on privacy", that's essentially over. It turns out virtually nobody cares about it...

One should not mistake the recognition of a fait accompli with not caring. I believe a substantial number of citizens care about the issue of privacy. And even further would care once the issues were explained fully to them.

But this is a train which left the station years before passengers could even buy tickets.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:46 AM on November 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Nobody has to watch, and frankly most of the stuff you do is boring anyway, but yes it might result in more prescriptions. On the other hand once the alternatives are clear people might stop being as anxious about being always on. Some of our anxiety in the modern age is that we can never be sure when we're on camera. The answer is always. Always and everywhere. No more lies from those in power. No more lies from those without power. Sure you can interpret the child starving to death in the gutter differently, but you can't deny they exist the way we do now. The dirty linen thing is a fear of judgement from those around you. Well, you can see all of their secrets as well. You can't be shamed when everyone is naked.

As for privacy, I'm very sorry but it's outmoded. It's dead. We're already being forced into the Panopticon, the only question is whether or not we drag everyone inside and then brick up the door.
posted by Peztopiary at 5:03 AM on November 13, 2010


As for privacy, I'm very sorry but it's outmoded. It's dead. We're already being forced into the Panopticon, the only question is whether or not we drag everyone inside and then brick up the door.

So you're saying we get to watch you sitting naked in your living room with a laptop on porn, doing the needful and its alllll goooood, maaann ?
posted by The Lady is a designer at 6:09 AM on November 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Nobody's going to make you watch though? I mean feel free or whatever, but most people probably aren't going to want to watch me masturbate. The idea is we wake up tomorrow with an ubiquitous surveillance society and our grandkids won't have the same issues we do. I personally am not all about nudity all the time. However, if the choice is (as it really seems to be at this point) everybody watching everybody vs a select group, (who will probably not themselves be surveilled) well I'll take everybody. Nobody is being forced to watch. Most of the stuff will be routine.

Very few people will want to watch me jerk off, but if later on someone is like "Dude, nice technique" whelp that's part of the price I pay to know what the fucks who run Goldman Sachs talk about with their buddies when they go out on the links at an exclusive club. (Heck, maybe it'll turn out they're actually secretly decent people who don't think that possession of wealth is the same thing as possession of morals.) Surveillance has to work both ways or it will get abused by the people doing the watching.

I guess we come from different viewpoints though. I think privacy leads to harm. Actual harm to real people, because it allows people who wouldn't dare do what they do in private to continue doing horrible things. Just all sorts of horrible shit. I don't see the value of it being greater than the harm it brings.
posted by Peztopiary at 6:39 AM on November 13, 2010 [1 favorite]



I guess we come from different viewpoints though.


Agreed. (to disagree :) Most likely its culture (losing face in public for example is a cultural construct) but also generation gap I'm guessing may add to this
posted by The Lady is a designer at 6:46 AM on November 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think privacy leads to harm. Actual harm to real people, because it allows people who wouldn't dare do what they do in private to continue doing horrible things

replace 'indivdual' with the 'state' ( which does not change your good point)

Iran wants privacy concerning Nuclear research and development. Iran states it is not making a Nuclear weapon.

Why not just give them a bomb? and save everyone time and money?

not a good argument on my behalf because it brings to many conflictions about definition.
watching someone in a voyeuristic way tends to become a social 'norm' when it is shared with other people sharing a similar trait. The Mob menatlity takes hold and then it is a race for dirt, your question is good and I believe the difference is your... knowlegde, understanding etc. of the issue, I would say faith but that is not correct.

An example of how this deeply harmed an already asunder country was France,1793. Indivduals would work for howevers printing press was not broken and collect dirt. I posit Marat was killed because of personal dirt. (no pun intended)

Who cares about the human habits and understanding when someone will use this to nefarious ends. IMO, this remains despite your point, it is larger then your point. IMO, you do not fight the mob, you control them using less evil means...same old question. Danton would be my concluding example, at least he tried to stop that madness.
posted by clavdivs at 11:51 AM on November 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


But all we know is that the postman did not get what he wanted and he unleashed this video on the internet, to make someone pay.

countesselena, though I agree we don't know everything about everyone involved, the postal worker refused to press charges. He also would not agree to testify against the woman in question, which means the case will, after a year, likely be dropped completely. I think your reading is not only uncharitable but flies in the face of the facts we *do* have.
posted by misha at 2:15 PM on November 14, 2010


Which is why talk of 1984 is such a red herring: ubiquitous surveillance isn't going to be installed by the government, it's going to be created by the average person. The government can just sit back and sift through the mountains of data freely provided.

>The end result is the same no?


Absolutely not. A huge part of the point of the surveillance apparatus in Nineteen Eighty Four is the mutability of the past, and the Party's consequent power over the present. In 1984, the racist woman would have the footage memory-holed, and no-one would believe the letter carrier.

The spread of surveillance equipment in recent years presents a number of problems, but they are completely different to those raised by Orwell.
posted by pompomtom at 8:11 PM on November 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


What happens to introverts, people who prefer not to "let it all hang out" or "wash dirty linen in public" in your world?

lead walls (and ceilings and floors)? i have faith that human ingenuity will be able to keep a minimum of privacy available to those in power.

your 100% transparent society is an interesting hypothetical, but, much like the "benevolent dictator," i can't see it in reality.
posted by mrgrimm at 9:06 AM on November 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


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