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Why you’ll wear a body camera

4 September 2017

A number of years ago, PG remembers reading a science fiction story about a future in which a large percentage of the population wore body cameras.

From TechConnect:

InfoTrends says people will take 1.2 trillion digital photos this year. That’s 100 billion more than last year and nearly double the number taken as recently as 2013.

The rate at which photo taking grows is currently clocked at a whopping 100 billion per year – that means each year humanity takes 100 billion more photos that it did last year.

I think that rate is about to accelerate. And the reason is wearable cameras.

As the cost goes down, quality goes up and ease of use improves (through miniaturization, better software and better batteries), wearable cameras will become more compelling.

These will arrive in the form of clip-on cameras, smartwatch cameras and cameras attached permanently or temporarily to glasses, including smart glasses.

. . . .

Just a few years ago, nobody could have predicted or imagined what’s now acceptable public behavior with a smartphone camera. People shamelessly pose and posture in public for selfies without embarrassment. They take pictures of their food and drinks in restaurants. They take selfies in the bathroom mirror.

. . . .

It turns out that the location of a wearable camera makes all the difference for how it’s used.

Badge-style clip-on cameras are acceptable for “lifelogging” applications – jogging your personal memory about places you go and people you meet. But they’re horrible for “photography.” Because the physical cameras move around, sit at odd angles and aren’t directly controlled by the user (they tend to shoot photos at intervals, or take video), the pictures are universally bad, save that one odd lucky shot.

Wrist-worn cameras are best used as expedient replacements for smartphone cameras – group shots, vacation snapshots and selfies.

As Google Glass wearers learned, eyeglasses-based cameras can take amazing photos. They point the camera where the user is looking, and show a first-person, this-is-what-I-saw picture, which can be photographically compelling.

. . . .

Smartglasses will use camera electronics and lenses as much for data gathering as photography. Images and video will be processed for object and face recognition and this data will be fed back into the AR application. Looking at a table with a goldfish bowl on it, an AR app will know that a virtual kitten can stand on the table but not the bowl, and a virtual shark can swim in the bowl but not the table. In AR, cameras aren’t for photography.

Other applications will capture photos or video all day, and process it through artificial intelligence systems to provide extremely good data on activity, behavior and environment.

Best of all, photography can be retroactive, either as photography or as data.

For example, instead of taking pictures of their food while they’re eating it, consumers can just tell their virtual assistant at the end of the day: “Post a picture of that pie I ate.” A.I. will reach into the recorded video, grab the best still shot of the pie and post it online. From a data perspective, we’ll ask that same assistant: “How many slices of pie did I eat last year?”

. . . .

The co-founder and CEO of Shonin, Sameer Hasan, told me wearable cameras will be initially focused on quality control and documentation, medical applications and security. They’ll be immediately usable for “instruction and demonstration, live entertainment and news reporting.”

Wearable cameras will enable AR to “process video information in real time and instantly provide the wearer with analysis and recommendations based on what the camera is seeing,” according to Hasan.

Link to the rest at TechConnect

As PG remembers the scifi story, the ubiquity of video recording devices were a great assistance to the totalitarian government that collected all the video.

Disruptive Innovation

21 Comments to “Why you’ll wear a body camera”

  1. So far, worn cameras are socially unacceptable.

  2. I’m not a fan of people taking photos of others in public, which is what a body camera would be doing. And what will they do with those images?

    There have already been cases where people are taking photos of children, women in bathrooms, changing rooms, upskirt photos and one judge didn’t protect the victims.

    Frankly, I’m sick of the endless rights grab. I was recently at a birthday party at a small shop and they wanted to take photos of my child. The release form said they could use the image without compensation forever and that the images belonged to them. Nope!

    I was the only parent that didn’t sign it. Everyone else did.

    It’s not a problem until it IS and then, unless you have the $ to fight it, you’re out of luck. And by then it’s too late.

    • I totally agree!

      There was recently an interesting case on the news about a Playboy model who took a photo of an elderly, overweight woman in a locker room and posted it on social media with a derogatory comment. She got hauled into court on a misdemeanor charge for invasion of privacy, and raked over the coals on social media for body shaming.

      If only we could count on people to live by the Golden Rule. It’s beginning to seem as if most people don’t know what that is.

      • The golden rule doesn’t work if you’re a masochist, or suicidal.

      • The problem with this woman’s case was that it really wasn’t in “public”. Taking photos on the street or in the park, fine, but a naked woman in a gym change room has an expectation of privacy.
        It’s like this girl at my daughter’s school a couple of years ago. She was being a bit of a bully and taking photos of my daughter and posting them and there was nothing I could do about it, but the moment she took a photograph of her in a public toilet she got hauled in, because there are different expectations there.

    • Actually, people have every right to take pictures in public provided they don’t use them for commercial purposes. Then the release form is required.

    • DaveMich is correct. If you’re in public, your picture can be taken. That is exactly what I told the teenaged trespassers who were vandalizing a vacant house on my parents’ street. I let them see me snap their pictures with my phone. They protested. I told them the law and sweetly suggested that if they didn’t want their pictures taken, the best option would be to quit trespassing and vandalizing.

      Oddly, they went with that option.

      In the meantime, I emailed the photos of the vandalism and the culprits to the real estate agent for that house, and asked him to please prioritize making the property un-vacant so that my parents and their neighbors could return to the status quo ante of living in a peaceful, quiet, well-kept neighborhood.

      A nice couple soon moved in.

      I don’t want what the Playboy model did to be the norm; I’m glad she was shamed and punished for what she did. Social media seems more apt to enable Big Brother, at least when you consider those people who have to tell everyone their address and how long they’ll be gone from their houses. And then insist on “checking in” for their every move on their route. Bonus if they tell you their kids’ names and blast their picture everywhere as they tell you where to find them. Sigh.

      But people using cameras to enforce community norms — don’t throw your trash on lawns, don’t break neighbors’ fences — seems more like a good thing than not. I also don’t see a downside for cops wearing body cameras and having dash cams in their cars. Citizens dealing with crooked cops benefit. Cops dealing with crooked citizens benefit. Seems a win-win.

    • I agree. There may be a lot of people who put their lives online, but there are a whole lot of us who very deliberately don’t and would take strong issue with other people attempting to do so without our knowledge/consent. Ask everyone who puts tape over the webcam on their home computer how they’d feel about other people wearing bodycams and owning whatever images the cams picked up.

      Cops with body/dash cams seems appropriate, but that’s a unique scenario. The reasons for them to do it do not extend to everyone else, nor do the expectations of what those videos will be used for.

  3. Heh, the fun with this will be never knowing if you are being recorded – no matter where you might be or what you might be doing. (And with all the back-doors they’re finding in security cameras, you’ll never know that the one you just turned off is still watching you do whatever you turned it off for.)

    Hmmm, don’t we have laws here in the states about taking pictures of under-aged children – dressed or not? (And the courts don’t have any leeway on ‘accidental’ pictures.)

    I’m thinking of that quote about an honest person giving them six lines and them finding in them a reason to hang them. (There are reasons cops turn off their body-cams or ‘forget’ to turn them on.)

    • (There are reasons cops turn off their body-cams or ‘forget’ to turn them on.)

      Those reasons could go away if a law were in place to automatically rule against a cop whose camera isn’t working for any reason. I’m almost certain there’s a similar legal concept regarding people who mysteriously lose or destroy any other kind of evidence (shredding papers, deleting emails, etc).

      • It would be nice if that law was in place, I’m just not holding my breath for it getting here. (I’m reminded of a story I heard where a cop forgot to turn it off and was caught teaching a new partner all the wrong little tricks of the trade.)

        And you have to let them have an ‘off’ switch, even cops need to use the bathroom every so often.

    • With regards to the photo of children, IIRC, it was a man taking a photo in a dressing room with a phone/camera. Apparently the laws hadn’t caught up with technology so what he did technically wasn’t illegal–there were no laws against it at the time.

      I believe he wasn’t punished but the judge said that his hands are tied because the law hasn’t caught up to technology.

      There was another case where the woman was in a public place and the guy took an upskirt photo and the argument was that she had no expectation of privacy out in public.

      What’s right and what’s illegal are two different things.

  4. We already lost the privacy battle when we allowed surveillance cameras to go up in public spaces.

    As for the question of “what will they do with those images,” the article suggests that the images will be used in augmented reality applications. The author proposes that such uses won’t be perceived as socially unacceptable survellance, but as useful functions.

    And if Pokemon Go is any sort of example, that’s right. I haven’t seen folks concerned about the game’s privacy implications (e.g. taking pictures of minor children) or totalitarian governments using it to control their people.

    • It’ll become the norm for everyone to wear hats/clothes with infra-red ‘lights/flashers built in to blind the cameras around them. 😉

  5. Totalitarian governments?
    You guys do realize that as of right now every email, text, phone call is recorded right?
    And has been going on for years. My assumption is that once it goes through a microprocessor someone, somewhere has it on file.

    Here’s the scary part- a buddy of mine has a brother who is a Special Investigator for the IRS; basically a tax cop- badge, gun etc.

    One night we were drinking beers and telling war stories and he told me about how he had a run in w/ someone over some kind of nonsense- blocking his driveway or whatever. He went to the office the next day and (brrrt) the guy was going to be audited for the next ten years.

    And that happened in the ’80’s. Can you imagine the power the bureaucrats w/ guns have now?

    • Government employees aren’t legally allowed to misuse their access/power like that. Which doesn’t mean they don’t do it, obviously, but citizens should push back when they suspect it’s happening. With your tax cop example, his neighbor–if he suspected a connection–could have at least filed a complaint with the guy’s supervisor. At that point, it depends on the culture of that office and if the supervisor upholds the standards that are technically in place. A complaint like that should have at least resulted in the matter being looked into, and might have even resolved the issue.

      Obviously people with government power misuse that power. But they’re not actually supposed to, and not everyone in government is okay with it happening, so one doesn’t need to simply assume that government employees can get away with anything they want. As a citizen, you’re allowed to push back if you suspect such misuse of position.

  6. Privacy is an interesting concept. There is no right to privacy explicitly stated in the constitution. The 4th Amendment restricts government searches and seizures, but it gets hazy when there is no physical location or object involved.

    US constitutional privacy rights are quite limited compared to the right described in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 12, which states “No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.” Some of that protection is provided in the US by statute, but the basic right is not spelled out.

    Privacy rights clash occasionally with the 1st Amendment, freedom of speech. In the past, in the US, discussion of privacy usually is related to libel and slander and what privacy rights we have under interpretation of common law are weakened by the 1st Amendment. For instance, outing names and addresses, which is protected under the Declaration of Human Rights, is protected by the 1st Amendment, at least under some interpretations.

    • The last sentence should read: “For instance, outing names and addresses, which WOULD BE PROHIBITED under the Declaration of Human Rights, is protected by the 1st Amendment, at least under some interpretations.”

      I apologize. My collie knocked the plug out of the wall before I could correct that.

  7. In case you’re wondering–okay, you’re not, but here goes anyway–there IS a right to privacy in the California constitution.

    You can read more about it here:
    https://www.lexology.com/library/detail.aspx?g=dbde88f6-68ed-46a2-8834-359651f5f371

  8. I’d love smartglasses with a camera function as I take lousy photos.

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