Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Privacy Again

Some years ago when low light capability was part of the consumers’ figure of merit for a video camera, Sony decided to push the envelope with their “Night Shot” line. Night Shot had an infrared light and a CMOS sensor sensitive in the infrared. The camera worked well in the dark however there were some drawbacks to the technology. Fashionable clothes are sometimes made with very thin fabrics that are virtually transparent. Fashion designers compensate for this by coloring these clothes black or patterning them so that the transparency is less noticeable... If you are a human being looking with human eyes confined to the normally visible spectrum. If you are an infrared video camera, the black coloring or the patterning may not matter. The outcry from this newly discovered use of the Night Shot caused Sony to immediately modify the camera, adding an IR blocking filter to limit the range the camera could peer.

The privacy concerns raised by Google Glasses are, by comparison, minutia in that you cannot film anything with the device that you couldn’t ordinarily see. In fact, Google Glasses are less intrusive than a cell phone camera in that if you are filming with Google Glasses, it is obvious what you are looking at and may be filming. With a cell phone camera, in or out of your hand... you get the picture. In general f anyone objects to being videotaped, the best advice is to stay at home. The Boston bombers’ mother was arrested for shoplifting at the Boston Lord and Taylor; she was caught on camera. The exact same store seems to have been crucial in tagging her sons for the Boston Marathon bombing as the store video surveillance apparent extends to filming across the street. As Scott McNeally famously said... years ago, “ You have zero privacy anyway.”

In banks today, it is common to have multiple video cameras with multiple screens reminding you that you are being surveilled. In my opinion, this is a poor use of a public information display. The message that you are being surveilled could probably be gotten across 15 second bursts with the rest of the time being devoted to using those screens to promote bank services. This would be equally effective, less "Big Brother-ish," and allow the bank to promote itself better to its patrons. I expect that surveillance will only grow and the banking type public display of surveillance imagery will grow as well. I do not know if the Boston Marathon bombings would have happened if the bombers had realized just how many cameras captured their activities but it would certainly be a concern to shoplifters seeing themselves occasionally pop up on any in-store digital signage. As I noted in a previous post, I expect that the next or some soon Boston Marathon will feature this crime deference feature of coupling surveillance with a publicly mounted display. With or without the public display device, my suggestion is to not do or display anything in public that you would not want filmed.

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