Privacy isn’t dead, it’s evolving
People are not naive about how much privacy they give away to tech, says the Autographer CEO. The debate is very much ongoing
Insight by Autographer’s Simon Randall
We hear a lot about “the death of privacy”, with all of us, and young people in particular, supposedly rushing to expose our most intimate moments online, in many, potentially life-ruining ways. But while it may make for a good headline, hidden within is really just a series of excuses from some of the larger social networks not to provide the functionality and experiences that people really want.
If teenagers really didn’t want privacy choices, why have they been jumping out of Facebook and into WhatsApp and Snapchat? Services that allow deeper engagement with a controlled and smaller group of friends are actually growing in popularity and no wonder; if your mum joins your network of “friends”, it doesn’t take long until the things you are sharing start to become sanitised.
It has taken time to realise the implications of what we share and how data is being mined from us, but far more questions are now being asked. We’ve become adept at managing info across our networks of friends; now we’re starting to understand what terms we want to work with when it comes to businesses.
The thing is, data collection massively predates social networks, going all the way
back to the first direct marketers. Previous generations handed over personal info to banks, supermarket loyalty schemes, magazine subscription sellers and others without a second thought. Today, people are aware of the deals behind the deals, and some are beginning to question it and look at ways to operate differently – now that’s progress.
Which, in a strictly non-plugging sense, brings me on to Autographer, the product my company makes. It’s a camera that hangs around your neck, taking photos and filming video so you don’t have to. So are we contributing to “the death of privacy”?
Well, first up, let me make clear that we include user guidelines with all our devices that champion the privacy of others as paramount. However, more fundamentally, just as attitudes to data are in flux right now, so are attitudes to wearable cameras. They’ve evolved with the widespread use of smartphones and image sharing, to the point that there’s an unwritten social etiquette to govern how and when it’s acceptable to take and share pics.
With this type of device, from Google Glass to GoPros, you can focus on the moment rather than stepping out of it to capture an image on your phone or camera. This results in very natural, non-posed images of life as it happens. You can also shoot in situations, such as rock climbing, where whipping an SLR out would be ill-advised.
Wearable cameras also address another current tech downer: living life through a screen. You can enjoy yourself and capture rich, atmospheric photos at the same time. In beta testing of the Autographer, we had a user at the London Olympics 100m final. He looked around the stadium before the race started and it seemed he was the only one there who actually watched the race. Every other person he could see viewed it through the screen of their mobile device or camera; they might as well have been at home on their sofa.
The coming wave of social wearables will let us share better images and free us from having to see the world through a screen. Privacy isn’t dead, we just need to be vigilant and sensible about how we maintain it – and also what we’re trading in return for it. Simon is the CEO of Autographer