Sunday, June 03, 2007

This is a Transparent Society

As with any new technology, there is the useful application and the dark side. Google Street Views, real street-level photographs of places, is no exception.

The benefit of Google Street Views is being able to virtually experience a place without having to go there physically, such as a tour of Times Square. Most of the time, specific people are not yet identifiable, but sometimes they are in varying embarrassing or even possibly illegal situations.

Is it worth it? Too late!
Some debate whether the perceived privacy loss is worth it but it has already happened. Even the usually forward thinking Internet rights watchdog Electronic Frontier Foundation exemplifies the mistaken understanding of the current world, as staff attorney Kevin Bankston remarks that "Everyone expects a certain level of anonymity as they move about their daily lives."

In reality, we have already been a surveillance society for some time. If anything, Google Street Views brings a more explicit realization of this and as David Brin importantly points out, an open availability of the information.

Privacy was already lost in many ways but especially when the cost of audio and video recording equipment dropped, the reach and quality improved and devices became ubiquitous. The technology is small and can used in unnoticed ways. One has to assume that everything one does or says in public or semi-public environments is being recorded and will be increasingly played back. There are opportunities in this as lifecammer TV is showing and also risks but most importantly inevitability. What are creative ways to provide value in a transparent society?