Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Cameras Everywhere

Here in NY, the latest news was that a women left her baby at a subway station and casually walked away.  A good Samaritan made sure the infant was watched till police showed.  The news reports at the time indicated that no cameras were at this particular stop and so no footage available of the woman.  But hours later, other footage was found that showed the woman pushing the stroller elsewhere and she was eventually discovered.  What is particularly noteworthy is that we have become more and more used to cameras and surveillance in our lives.  At every airport, store, and even on streets, cameras seem to be almost everywhere.  And we seem ok with that.

Certainly in an age where terrorism affects us, cameras help to find perpetrators and victims.  It is used as a defense to help thwart potential crimes and we live by the notion that a good defense is a good offense.  Take for example the story a week ago of a trucker who watched a state trooper speed and talk on his cell, honked his horn and caused the trooper to pull the trucker over.  Quickly, the trucker started filming the interaction with his smartphone which led, not to a ticket for excessive honking, but to an apology from the trucker for not following the rules of the road, no cell phone while driving.  Without the video, a ticket would certainly have been the more likely outcome.

It demonstrates that we have become okay with cameras recording us in life just as we have the same ability with our smart phones to video our interactions.  Camera security is now more prevalent in our homes as wireless and remote cameras protect us from break-ins and help lead to capture. Cameras are in every store too recording us entering and leaving as well as waiting at the cash register. 

But the rise in camera coverage in almost every step we take comes with a price.  A loss of anonymity for one thing, and perhaps a bit of individual freedom.  Private may never be private anymore.  With every recording, everything we say or do becomes a permanent record.  Donald Sterling, "former" owner of the LA Clippers, certainly feels this way.  His anti-social rant was captured and shared with the county, resulting in his loss of team ownership. 

Overall, the use of cameras, both publicly and privately, tries to assure that safety and security are improved.  But it is at the cost of some personal freedoms.  And while it provides an added level of information, we also know that we can't be naive to believing that it represents all the facts either.  Technology also enables clever editing, Photoshopping, and other visual and audio tricks.  Still cameras are a tool that we as the public seem to be very comfortable knowing that we are always being recorded.