Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Omnipresent Eye

The omnipresent eye means that nothing, nothing, escapes video recording these days. Whether it's on the world stage in the Olympics in Vancouver or at the backyard birthday party, it's all recorded for posterity. We were all reminded of that again this week when video of the horrific crash and death of the Georgian luger appeared on CNN. (WARNING--it is graphic).

There are lots of ethical and privacy issues in play here. Are there any rules, or should there be any rules, regarding how far is too far? The First Amendment keeps the Internet relatively regulation-free, leaving policing mainly to the content providers. History tells us that system doesn't always work very well. (For example, although YouTube says the crash video is too graphic and has tried to remove it, new versions keep periodically popping up).

Newer, cheaper technology has armed the 6+ billion people on the planet with the ability to shoot and upload almost anything. What does that mean to the concept of personal privacy? Imagine your most _____ moment (fill in the blank: embarrassing, dangerous, unseemly, etc.) captured on video and beamed around the globe. We marvel at the Internet's ability to make famous people like Susan Boyle (87+ million YouTube hits and counting), but don't pay near as much attention to people like these girls who were secretly taped working out to Wii Fit and became embarrassed (and unwitting) celebrities.

There are not easy answers to any of these questions, but the questions need to be asked just the same.


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