Culture Critique
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Privacy, Paparazzi and Surveillance



It seems everywhere you go these days you’re in someone’s picture or video. It used to be just celebrities that had to worry about their private or day-to-day moments being filmed or photographed. While sometimes being filmed or photographed is incidental, people also regularly film and photograph friends and even strangers without asking their permission. This is a violation of privacy, but because ethics usually trail technological advancement, both people behind the camera and those in front of it, ignore or are ignorant of this fact. Part of this is due to vanity: it used to be something special to be “on camera.” It meant you were a star that people wanted to see. Now that everyone has a camera in their smartphone, everyone is the star of their own movie with their friends, family and strangers playing supporting roles and bit parts, whether they want to or not.


Paparazzi and Surveillance


There’s a reason celebrities attack paparazzi and smash their cameras. There’s also a reason why many indigenous cultures believe that taking someone’s picture is stealing their soul. If we substitute soul here for the right to own and share one’s own image, then everyday you leave the house, you leave those rights behind. Unwittingly, we have begun to monitor ourselves and each other, while also being filmed by traffic cameras, store cameras, etc. Furthermore, our mobile phones can be accessed remotely by any skilled spy and used to record or film us without our knowledge. If this seems paranoid, remember that the U.S. government has been secretly violating our privacy for years by monitoring our communication, until Edward Snowden let us know about it.

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