Thursday, September 19, 2013

The Invisible Mirror

Digital cameras, webcams, and smartphones have changed the way we interact with each other. We now take instant photos of our food and post them for the world to see. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are must have apps which are used for daily recording of our lives. You can literally view someone's entire day from the time they wake up until the time they go to bed. Everything is on camera.

But hit the pause button for now and think about the implications. We've become so accustomed to putting ourselves on camera that we've become numb to when the camera is out of our control. What do I mean you ask? Well, if you've shopped in a store, bought coffee in a Starbucks, or pumped gas today then you were on camera. Parking lots have cameras. ATMs have cameras. Workplaces have cameras. Churches have cameras. Crowds are observed on camera at sporting events. In a growing number of cities streets and intersections have cameras that capture images of pedestrians and vehicles. And last but not least, Google has used satellites to film where you are currently sitting right now. If you use Google+ they are inside your home too.

 We have become conditioned to being observed, willingly or not. Webcams are being hacked and digital pirates can watch you whenever they want (so put that away) and you wouldn't even know. The apps I mentioned before require you to give up your rights to control your smartphone camera or tablet camera (read the permissions carefully the next time you download an app). While you never want to promote conspiracy theories or dwell in the land of paranoia, you should take a moment and become more aware of the little bites of privacy that you willingly give away.

One of the best Sci-Fi movies of all time (ok, I'm not a big Sci-Fi fan) is THX 1138, the classic by George Lucas from 1971. The movie shows the extreme boundaries of constant surveillance and was prescient in it's exploration of today's pharmaceutical drug culture. Visually stunning, it holds up today and you should check it out when you have time. And there is a really cool scene filmed in a BART tunnel that was under construction!

I'm not immune to the good aspects of instant video and I use my camera all the time. But its ok to be cautious and unplug the camera from time to time. Big Brother may not be focused on you yet, but the infrastructure is being built and the switch could be flipped soon.

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