While some university students were worried about finals or the end of the semester the week of April 15, students in the Boston area had a very different set of concerns as police hunted suspects who detonated two bombs at the Boston Marathon. For good — or bad — the Internet was highly involved with crowdsourced crime-fighting, sometimes leading news sources to pin the wrong person. How much is your world recorded? With the upcoming release of Google Glass — and video surveillance evidence from the Boston Marathon bombings that shows just how documented modern life is — it’s easy to see how privacy may be becoming a thing of the past.
Crowdsourced crime-fighting: A help or a hindrance?
As soon as the bombings happened, the Internet and Reddit, in particular, were flooded with images that users dissected for comparison, searching for suspects with backpacks in one image and without one later on. Adrian Chen from Gawker.com, posting as the investigation was still happening April 17, 2012 in “Your guide to the Boston Marathon bombing amateur internet crowd-sleuthing,” revealed some of the obvious problems with the general, Internet-going public getting involved: anyone could be a suspect — and someone usually suggested that they were.
Worse, the New York Post featured photos of two young men who were not actually suspects, but who had been suggested to be by Internet users. Many of the targets revealed inherent racism from the posters. Chen summarized, “As the New York Post will tell you, any brown people in the vicinity of a bombing are suspect. Now, Reddit has shown the power of the crowd to racially profile more quickly and efficiently than any old media organization.”
But while the Internet conversations may have been a bust — and sometimes interfered with real police work — the fact that so many people recorded events via their cameras or phones, meant the FBI had more than 2,000 photos to work with. “The technology is out there, it’s inexpensive, teenagers have it, and it documents the world. And that becomes evidence,” retired FBI supervisor Nancy Savage told NBC News contributors Nidhi Subbaraman, Suzanne Choney and Rosa Golijan for their April 19, 2013 article, “Tech-savvy public plays unprecedented role in crowdsourced terrorist hunt.”
Hello Google Glass, goodbye privacy?
Given how helpful those images were to the investigators solving the Boston Marathon bombings, it’s easy to see we’re living in a recorded world. That trend is something that’s likely to continue as technology makes recording even easier. Google Glass is one of those products likely to have even more impact on the recording of the world — and the loss of privacy that comes with it. Shipping out in waves to testers, Google Glass is a headset that feeds or records images directly into the wearer’s vision. A developer guide was released the week of April 15, giving app designers a chance to see how everyone’s favorite games and tools can be played or used in a hands-free environment.
Jon Evans of TechCrunch, wrote “OK Glass, RIP privacy: The democratization of surveillance” April 20, 2013, and noted that one of the big differences in the way that Google Glass will allow users to record their worlds is that there will be far more opportunity for civilians to monitor law enforcement — or for law enforcement to be required to wear Glass like technology that records their actions and makes them available to the public. Evans wrote, “Interestingly, there’s now some real data supporting that stance,” and went on to quote an article from the New York Times: “Even with only half of the 54 uniformed patrol officers wearing cameras at any given time, the department over all had an 88 percent decline in the number of complaints filed against officers.”
As Scott McNealy of Sun Microsystems infamously said in 1999, “You have zero privacy anyway. Get over it.”
On Twitter and YouTube
Glass is all over YouTube with both Glass-users and news organizations posting their opinions:
- Lorenzo Adams takes Glass on a rollercoaster
- CNET suggests the top five uses for Google Glass
- Google advertises how it feels through Glass
Meanwhile, Twitter throws down its gloves, has a chicken fry, and promotes new music:
And posh pets are in with the old money dog meme.
Do you worry about your privacy? Tell us in the comments!