Infrastructure // PC & Servers
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1/19/2007
04:09 PM
Mitch Wagner
Mitch Wagner
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The Revolution Will Be Vlogged

Will privacy become a quaint custom that people in the 20th century used to practice? While government and corporate surveillance and massive, petabyte databases of personal data are making it harder to keep secrets, the biggest threat to privacy is something you're carrying around in your pocket: Your cameraphone.

Will privacy become a quaint custom that people in the 20th century used to practice? While government and corporate surveillance and massive, petabyte databases of personal data are making it harder to keep secrets, the biggest threat to privacy is something you're carrying around in your pocket: Your cameraphone.

Cheap video cameras, cheap, plentiful storage, and Internet services like YouTube are making it commonplace for us to spy on each other and share the results with the world. The rich and powerful are feeling the brunt of this force first. As described in my story on Internet video in the 2008 presidential campaign,, presidential candidates are working now to line up their online video strategies.

The Internet presents a powerful tool for communicating directly to the people -- going "over the heads" of the mass media, as people used to say about President Reagan 20 years ago. But the defining moment of the 2008 election probably won't be anything planned. It'll happen when a candidate is tired and screws up and says or does something stupid that ends up being watched by an entire nation on YouTube.

That's what happened to U.S. Senator George Allen, running for re-election in Virginia, when he used the obscure racial epithet "macaca" to taunt one of his opponent's staff. Alas for Allen, the staffer was recording Allen on video at the time. Allen lost the election.

Brazilian supermodel Daniela Cicarelli was caught on the beach having sex with her boyfriend, and the video popped up all over the Internet.. A Brazilian judge ordered YouTube to take down the video, but they couldn't do it -- whenever they took down a copy, somebody else put one up.

The judge then ordered YouTube shut down. Good luck with that.

Comedian Michael Richards, who played Kramer on Seinfeld, got stung by Internet video when he shouted out racial epithets during his act at a West Hollywood comedy club.

And, on a more somber note, Internet video of Saddam Hussein's execution embarrassed the U.S. and Iraqi government. The video showed guards angrily taunting the former dictator, and shouting triumphantly the name of Muqtada al-Sadr, who opposes both America and the Iraqi government.

Celebrities and the powerful are the most visible -- so to speak -- targets of Internet video surveillance, but it's affecting ordinary people as well. The Washington Post looks at our culture of ubiquitous surveillance by looking at a day in the life of real estate agent Kitty Bernard, from the moment she leaves her apartment and crosses the empty lobby of her building watched by security cameras, to the use of her credit cards, which keep records of everything she buys and where she buys them, to her cell phone, which tracks her location at all times, to her e-mail, which can be subpoenaed even before she reads it, to the moment when she returns home, using an RFID-enabled key-fob to get in the building prior to going to bed.

Also, New York's 911 system will now allow callers to send in e-photos and videos when they call in emergencies.

Have you ever been harmed by surreptitious video recording of your activities?

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