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A World with very little Privacy

There’s a lot of interest in the surveillance society. People don’t like it. Or I should probably say some vocal people don’t like it. There might be plenty of people on the “I’ve got nothing to hide so I think it’s good” side of the aisle though I’m not sure I know many. This usually comes up in discussion of video cameras placed outdoors. It also comes up in discussion of police having drones. Lately it’s come up in discussion of Google Glass.

I’d like the try to consider what the possible positives are rather than the negatives.

First off, let me say, I think it’s inevitable that nearly everything will be recorded at all times. Google Glass is just the start. Within 10-20 years we’ll be embedding cameras and computers in our heads. It will start as artificial eyes for blind people but at some point the tech will make those artificial eyes better than natural eyes. By that time, something like Google Glass will likely already be popular and it seems obvious the 2 will be combined. At that point it’s no longer a camera, it’s just “augmented memory”. You have no right to decide how I remember things whether it’s just in my head, or I take notes, or I record. You also arguably have no right to decide who I share my memories with or how I share them. I think that makes it pretty clear that once we get here there will be very little privacy.

That scares a lot of people. It scares me too. I don’t want the police or the government to be able to spy on me. I’m not doing anything wrong but I don’t trust them not to make shit up as in look at something innocent as proof of something non-innocent. Example: You read an article about some group in the middle east and they claim that’s proof your sympathizing with the enemy. That’s the scary part.

But, what about the good parts? Part of the scary part assumes the government is only spying on us but that same technology lets us spy on them. If implanted cameras were as common as smartphones then every government conversation would likely be recorded, every police interaction recorded, every corporate leadership meeting, etc… it would be much harder for police to abuse rights, for governments to implement illegal policies and for corporations to make evil decisions if every person attending every meeting could potentially be recording that meeting and posting it online.

If most people walking down the street were constantly recording what their eyes see would muggings stop? If every car had cameras pointing inside and out would car theft stop? If every child had one early on would children be safer from predators?

If embedded cameras were common then you’d have to trust your lovers not to share your intimate moments together. Or maybe it would become common to share them? On the other hand, would that end all rape? All sexual harassment? Maybe even some racial and sexual discrimination?

Yes, it’s a scary future but it seems inevitable so it’s interesting to try to guess what will end up happening when we get there. Will the positives outweigh the negatives?

  • Troy

    I am reminded of

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Dead_Past

    Certainly the surveillance state produces a more law-abiding polity.

    The question becomes who is making those laws and to what ends.

    I’ve long thought that all government — public sphere — activity should be completely in the open. AFAICT there should be no need for secrecy or opacity in almost anything they do or say on the job, from the Oval Office to the local pound.

    Act at work as if you’re always on camera is actually pretty good career advice, LOL.

    >If most people walking down the street were constantly recording what their eyes see would muggings stop?

    Yes, we saw this with the Boston terrorist event, how recorded surveillance creates the imagery that can identify wrongdoers.

    The UK has been in the forefront of this trend.

    I think it’s more important to create a society where criminals are not created, rather than create a police state to catch them in the act.

    Goog is on the wrong track here I think.

    Just yesterday I came across my HS senior yearbook after 15 years. It’s fun revisiting the past, but it’s not a good place to live.

  • http://greggman.com greggman

    The issue I was trying to bring up is ubiquitous surveillance. Not the typical citizen only (UK), employee only (various companies) surveillance but surveillance on police (no more abusing their power), surveillance on government (no more secret deals), surveillance on executives (no more sweeping things under the rug). Etc…

    I’m not hopeful we’ll get there but when everyone has a camera built into their eyes with the feed backed up in the cloud and no way to tell when they are recording since they’re always recording, it seems like in such a world it would get harder and harder for the truth not to come out. It only takes one person to leak the info. Right now those situations are rarely recorded so at most it would be someone’s word against someone else’s but in that future they’d have proof.

    I don’t think we’ll ever have a society where there are no criminals. While I can imagine a society with enough social support there are no petty criminals I can’t imagine with no corrupt government officials, no exploitive executives, no bad police.