Saturday, May 06, 2006

Take a picture

Now, more than any time in history, it is easy to take a photo of anything, anywhere at any time. Like anything, this is a double-edged sword. From a security standpoint, this is cool. From a privacy standpoint, this sucks.

The rich and famous have always been aware of the pitfalls of being in a fishbowl and being barraged by the papparazzi. It is the rest of us that I think it is taking by suprise. We have cameras pretty much everywhere in the building I work in. And every now and then I catch myself, let's say, scratching my nose rather enthusiastically while I wait for the elevator and I look up and realize I'm standing under one of the security camera's. Then I sheepishly walk by one of the security guards a few hours later and see them shake their head in disgust.

Cameras are everywhere. They monitor parking lots, freeways, bank machines, and bulding entrances. Television programs like Vegas lead us to believe that you can't even go to the bathroom in a casino without someone filming it. And some sites on the Internet confirm that.

Hollywood also has convinced us that the government has spy satellites that can zoom in from the sky and tell you what color your eyes are. And from some of the satellite photography I've seen, they aren't that far off.

What is worse than the spy cameras are the proliferation of camera phones. It is sad that we now have an entire generation who not only can't go anywhere, including the bathroom, without a cell phone, but now have the means to capture and send photos of their immediate environment. Some athletic clubs are now banning cell phones from locker rooms. Having been in a men's locker room, trust me, it is nothing you'd like to see a photo of. It does, however, add a whole new meaning to the old advertising slogan for the telephone company: Reach out and touch someone.

Digital photography has revolutionized how we think of photography. Photographs used to be reserved for special occasions and you'd often have a roll of film in the camera for up to a year or two before you'd finished off the roll and sent it in for processing. You could easily have Christmas, birthdays, Easter and Halloween shots on one roll.

Digital cameras have eliminated discretion when it comes to shooting photos. And I'm as guilty as they come. I catch myself shooting photos of everything in my hotel rooms when I'm on vacation. You never know when you'll need a photo of the toiletries on a bathroom counter.

On the plus side, digital photography does allow every aspect of history to be documented for posterity. I fantasize sometimes about how our perspective would be changed if we could actually see real photos of some of the great events in history. We'd probably be greatly disillusioned to discover many of the great events probably never really happened.

It is the beauty of human nature to allow their built in defense mechanisms kick in when faced with even photographic evidence. To this day some whack jobs think the moon walks were staged on a Hollywood set. But I'm no one to talk. Almost every day I prove that it is fairly easy to tweak a digital image to allow you to become part of just about any scene in history. Who knows, maybe I have discovered time travel and the photos THE Michael rages on about are all real.

In the meantime, I have just one word of advice for you when faced with a world that is captured with a camera lense at an ever increasing rate -- smile.


Hayden said...

I can't be bothered to worry about "security cameras." never forget, reviewing them is a real-time project, and some poor sucker has to stay awake for 8 hours staring at a screen of mind-numbing boredom....
at some level, the whole thing collapses under it's own weight and the cost of survelliance. Cameras may be virtually free, but trying to look at the result is paid job. The existance of the camera is the deterrant.

reminds me of the paranoia over getting taxes in and post-marked "on time." Are there still traffic jams and long lines at the postoffice as midnight approaches?

In the days when I mailed them I was confident that nowhere in the vast IRS mailroom was a huge team of people scrutinizing post marks for the first couple of days after deadline. I routinely dropped them off the following morning and never heard a murmur of reproach.

Time said...

Hmmm...I wonder if there is an IRS whistleblower program that pays a reward for chronicly late tax filers? :)

Hayden said...

too late. I've been e-filing (on time) for years. statute of limitations has done gone and expired ;-)