Magazine article The Futurist

Fun with Surveillance: Does New Program Point toward Loss of "Privateness"?

Magazine article The Futurist

Fun with Surveillance: Does New Program Point toward Loss of "Privateness"?

Article excerpt

The issue of intrusive government surveillance, particularly in the form of security cameras in public places, is one of increasing concern to privacy advocates. However, according to some sociologists and technology watchers, self-surveillance--or people recording and then publicizing themselves is having a much larger effect on society.

The Web site YouTube, which allows people to post video of themselves online for public consumption, now receives 65,000 video uploads daily. Performance groups like the New York-based Surveillance Camera Players are constantly devising ways to turn surveillance culture into art. Now, a new video-capture system developed in the United Kingdom will allow people to record themselves using surveillance cameras. The program, dubbed "Magic Moments," will debut at the Alton Towers amusement park in Staffordshire, England, April 2007.

Visitors to Alton Towers who purchase the service will receive an RFID (radio frequency identification) band to wear around their wrist, "marking" them to the park-wide video-capture system. As you go about your day at the park, footage of you enjoying rides, eating hot dogs, peeling gum off of the bottom of your shoe, and so on is routed, catalogued, and digitally stored. When you're ready to leave, you signal a computer to begin assembling the personalized footage, which is then transferred to a 30-minute DVD, available for purchase.

"In addition to using Sony video cameras to capture the guest's experience on the ride, the cameras can also be utilized to provide additional security protection in the event of park break-ins or acts of vandalism," says Al Page, chief executive officer for YourDay Video Technologies.


The notion of putting oneself under video surveillance may sound odd (if not demonstrably vain), but according to privacy experts such as Amitai Etzioni, author of The Limits of Privacy (Basic Books, 1999), there exists a growing trend in putting oneself on display.

"There is definitely a trend under way," sys Etzioni. "I wouldn't call it a move away from privacy so much as away from privateness. Even privacy advocates would agree that if you want to give up your privacy for any specific purpose, that's certainly your privilege, and people do it all the time. Privateness is different. The voluntary loss of privateness is definitely on the rise. People have become very willing to disclose things for a number of reasons--for 15 minutes' fame on television, for convenience, for coupons and special marketing incentives, and so on. …

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