Clearly, this is not my typical post. As my few faithful readers know, my posts are dry, introspective, and humanistic. I don’t do product reviews…and never will.
Having said that, I feel I need to discuss the novelty, application, and potential privacy implications of the Autographer.
As quoted from the website, the Autographer is: “…a new type of camera which has been custom built to enable spontaneous, hands-free image capture.” That so doesn’t cover it at all.
The purpose of the camera is to catch images automatically, to present you an unchoreographed panorama of your daily life through the unbiased eye of the Autographer (my words). It does this through the use of “…a custom 136° eye view lens, an ultra small GPS unit and 5 in-built sensors.” In short, when the Autographer thinks there is a good pic based upon its own internal sensor data it takes a happy-snap. Anybody have a problem with that? People will wear the camera around their neck, attached to a jacket clip or attached to their belt. If you dont take a critical look at it it could pass as a phone. Anybody have a problem with that?
Personally I dont.
But I do understand what is going around in people’s heads, especially where their privacy is concerned.
SO WHAT CONCERNS PEOPLE MOST?
So what does it mean to the average person on the street? It means that besides the thousands of cameras every major city has pointed at you night and day, and the thousands of phone-cams everyone has, there is now an innocuous little cam taking pictures of you when you are not looking…and when the “picture taker” is not looking as well. Is that big news, really? No, but there is a difference between when a machine is taking your pic and when a person does.
When a machine takes your pic for security or traffic monitoring, you are fairly certain that not only is it likely there is no “human” looking at it, but also that no one really cares your image is there. But when the Autographer takes your pic automatically you know there is a single purposeful reason why it is doing so: a person wants the photos.
What will that person do with your image? When will s/he be taking them? Why is s/he taking them at all? Do they have a right to do this?
I would venture an estimate that the vast majority of people who buy this camera have no nefarious intent, nor will they take inappropriate pictures (how could they, most of the pics will be taken automatically). The whole point of the autographer is to catch unique images that you missed or were too busy to recognize. Chances are good most of them will be erased and only the most meaningful kept. But that’s not really central to the chief concern, is it?
WHAT IS THE CHIEF FEAR?
If your picture is taken without your consent, do they have a right to it? And what about personal embarrassment? What if an autographer, mounted on a belt, catches a man scratching his balls or a woman crossing her legs? Isn’t that an invasion of privacy?
I’m not an attorney. Still, simple deductive reasoning would lead one to conclude that, at least in this country, the right to a person’s image is a cloudy assertion at best. If you take a picture of Cameron Diaz in public and sell it to the news paper, you can make a tidy profit. So, if your image is taken in a public place, do you have anymore right to that image than Diaz? If the autographer does catch a woman crossing her legs under a table and the picture was taken without prurient intent to do so, is there a violation there?
WHAT ABOUT PRIVACY LAWS?
In fact, technology has outdistanced legislation.
There is substantive legislation to counter violations of private spaces, fraudulent use of identity, and the collection of personal information. But how images are captured in public spaces, stored, retrieved, and used? With the exception of defined instances, its virgin territory. I’m not even sure anyone wants to address this potential hornets nest until absolutely necessary.
SO, HOW DOES IT MAKE YOU FEEL?
So we are left with “how do you feel about this?” instead of “do they have a right to my image?’ With the tens of thousands of cell phone cameras about, I’m certain I get caught in pictures all the time. Personally, I don’t care. To me its no different than someone looking at me while I am in my car, lost in thought…picking my nose. The difference here is that something of that nature could be captured “forever.” Still, I am responsible for my actions, especially in a public place, and if my composure falters momentarily, and is caught on “film,” well, that is on me, not the autographer.
There are many people who feel they have an unalienable right to a certain space around their person, this includes their image. This, however, is not specifically supported by iron clad legislation as far as I am aware. Nevertheless, it is these people who need to push new laws to address the issue.
ART IS IN THE EYE OF THE BEHOLDER
As for me, I feel its art reinterpreted. With some reasonable exceptions, I think hindering this socialtech would represent censorship.
There is a UK Huffington Post autographer article that is running a poll to audit peoples comfort level with the concept. Something like 44.13% are comfortable with the device being in their midst.