WOSTER: Sometimes enough is enoughEyeglass cameras are latest gadget to pry into our privacy
By: Terry Woster, The Daily Republic
I have another story to share in my occasional series about old guys learning to deal with technology, but it seems so outlandish somebody at the office probably already has purchased the thing my story describes.
In the evenings, I like to read a bit before turning in. Reading is a relaxing way to turn down the volume of the day and prepare for sleep — even if the article being read describes a rather frightening development in the pell-mell race by humanity to create so many technological wonders that we make ourselves irrelevant. So, that’s what I was about when I hit upon an article describing a pair of innocent-looking eyeglasses that, it turns out, contain a video camera.
Now, I read this in a news magazine. It was a print piece, not an online news magazine. While that doesn’t necessarily mean I can depend on the information to be absolutely true, it does mean that somebody had to go to the trouble of setting it in type and maybe even having it proofread for mistakes and misspellings and other such errors. Wow, just like in the days of the dinosaur when hot lead meant either that the back shop of a newspaper was in full cry or that Hugh O’Brien was using his Buntline Special to gun down the Clanton gang on the streets of Tombstone in the weekly television series. Anyway, what I’m saying is it takes more time to put an article in print and distribute it to potential readers than it does to crank it onto a computer screen (or phone screen) and send it instantly to the entire world.
The fact that the information was in print gave me enough confidence it could be true that I spent a few minutes pondering the implications of a world in which every spectacles-wearing person I met on the street might be filming me without my knowledge or consent. And if I’m out there on a city street or in the rotunda of the state Capitol building or in the drive-through line at the Burg-O-Pardner (yeah, I borrowed that from the name of the western café in the small Wyoming town that’s home to Joe Picket, the hero of the C.J. Box novels), I might not have a legitimate right to expect that my privacy is intact from prying technofolks.
(Now, I was a newspaper reporter for 40 years, and I probably pried into more places than most folks. Even so, I had a strong belief in an individual’s right to privacy. In many South Dakota towns, I learned as a reporter, there are dozens and hundreds of people who will share incredibly personal details of their lives if you get them talking. I don’t know if it’s just that we’re eager to please out here in the prairies or what, but I frequently saw the newspapering version of Newton’s Laws of Motion. A mouth put into motion tends to remain in motion. This is true: There were times when I would stop someone and say essentially, “You know, just because I ask a question doesn’t mean you have to answer it.” I suppose that’s bad interview technique for a reporter, but sometimes enough is enough, you know?)
Where was I? Oh, yes, the invasion of the privacy-snatching eyeglasses. OK, so think about it for a minute, as I did late on a sweltering summer evening. Someone has created a device that looks like a pair of reading glasses but that has the ability to record other people without those people knowing they are on Candid Camera. At least Allen Funt eventually came out and showed the mark the rolling camera. A man or woman with the recording glasses would never have to say a word, and the first time you or I would know we’d been on film would be when we saw it going viral on YouTube or wherever people put those things that embarrass the dickens out of other people.
I’m not saying this latest advance in technology is all bad. Since I read the piece, though, I’ve been mighty careful around people with glasses.