Science fiction writer David Brin calls it “a tsunami of lights” — a future where tiny cameras are everywhere, lighting up everything we do, and even predicting what we’ll do next.
Unlike George Orwell’s novel “1984,” where only Big Brother controlled the cameras, in 2015, cheap, mobile technology has turned everyone into a watcher.
With each technological advance, more of our lives — from the humdrum to the hyper-dramatic — is being caught on camera.
That includes the police, whose actions can be recorded by anyone with a camera phone. In South Carolina, a cellphone video released last week showed a police officer firing eight shots at a fleeing man’s back. In San Bernardino County, news choppers captured footage of deputies punching and kicking a man as he lay face-down on the ground with his hands behind his back.
“Painting a picture that cameras are everywhere and anywhere is pretty provocative,” said Ryan Martin, a technology analyst at 451 Research, but it can also present opportunities to increase accountability and improve safety.
There are 245 million surveillance cameras installed worldwide, according to research firm IHS, and the number increases by 15% a year…
ParaShoot is selling a $199 HD camera that’s light enough to wear on a necklace or stick to a wall or car dashboard. “Never miss the meaningful moments again,” the company touts.
Another company, Bounce Imaging, is manufacturing a throwable camera shaped like a ball, with police departments as the target customer. The omni-directional cameras can literally take pictures on the fly and instantly transmit pictures to a smartphone.
It’s not just governments that are collecting rich stores of data. Facebook uses face-recognition technology to identify users’ friends in photos.
We expect the government, city, state or feds, to keep an eye on us. In public places, I think it can serve up as much good as opportunist evil. They didn’t expect us to start watching them on our own.
“Evolutionarily, we’re primed for it,” said Kevin Kelly, author of the book “What Technology Wants.” “For most of human history, we’ve been covering each other. It’s only in recent history we’ve developed a heightened sense of privacy.”
But, he adds, social norms guided behavior in the less-private past. Norms for the cameras-everywhere era haven’t been developed — nor are there well-thought-out legal structures that would keep inevitable abuse in check.
Meanwhile, while courts continue to uphold the rights of ordinary citizens to record police and politicians, the states run by the most repressive politicians fight back – passing new laws every year making it illegal to photograph or record the actions of officialdom even in public. Every one of those has to be challenged.
From Texas to Kansas, Arizona to Minnesota, conservative political hacks are scared crapless that someone will catch them being stupid – or criminal – and post it online. And if they’re scared, I’m impressed.