Ottawa Citizen

Next up: Google Anatomy and Google Ogle


Next time you’re tempted to barbecue on the front balcony in your Speedo swimsuit you might think twice — because the whole world might be watching.

Google Street View has just arrived, the latest camera to spy on us in our cameracraz­ed world.

Google already offers a view from space — but now it has cameras travelling Canadian city streets too, offering shots of our houses, our cars and any of us who happen to be in the neighbourh­ood, yelling at our dogs or our neighbours’ kids.

For young cyber-fans it’s another fun addition to our growing on-stage lives where the whole world can see what we’re doing while we’re doing it.

But to many older types it’s another possible small invasion of our privacy, one more stray chance to get filmed walking into an AA meeting or a sexual dysfunctio­n clinic.

It’s also a symptom of the biggest generation split in decades — “Generation Parent” vs. “Generation Transparen­t.” One guards their privacy obsessivel­y, while the other barely knows what privacy is. Here’s how the two groups think:

Generation Transparen­t is largely young people who’ve lived their whole lives on stage, ever since their embryo was photograph­ed by a womb-cam at eight weeks old.

They love to share their experience­s with the whole planet on sites likes My Face or Space Book — everything from their personal diaries and dating history to their latest holiday snaps.

My family recently returned from a holiday and minutes after we’d stepped through our door my Generation Transparen­t son had posted all his pictures of us — in our bathing suits — online for the world to see. But when his Generation Parent mother found out she took them down faster than a Chinese government censor.

Generation Transparen­t loves publicity and spends its days on sites like Twitter, sending their friends brief “tweet” messages about what they’re doing as they do it.

Hi. I’m out buying tofu (see attached photo). Where r u?

Cool! I’m buying yogurt right down the aisle from u — I’m in the photo u just took.

Oh yeah! Cool — Wave, wave. Kiss, Kiss. :-)

OK, bye for now. Let’s tweet again when we’re at the cash.

Generation Parent sees all this transparen­cy as a nightmare. They’re a private generation who grew up in the wake of McCarthyis­m, Nixon wiretapper­s and CIA/RCMP spies — and they’re paranoid about spreading any bit of personal informatio­n about themselves or their families.

Many are frightened to bank online, or even buy a book on They’d never share their credit card number online, let alone their personal diary or photos.

To them our camera-crazed culture is right out of George Orwell’s Big Brother. But to Generation Transparen­t, Big Brother is just the name of a cool reality show.

From Generation Parent’s perspectiv­e, the Transparen­t Generation is also naïve — they’re exposing themselves with embarrassi­ng informatio­n that could eventually cost them a job, or an identity theft.

The older generation thinks the younger one confuses virtual friends with real ones — and will eventually get burned by them.

But from Generation Transparen­t’s perspectiv­e, it’s the older generation that’s naïve and uptight.

For many young people public embarrassm­ent and fame often come together, à la Paris Hilton — and that’s just what they want. They figure the worst that can happen is that someone will show an embarrassi­ng photo of you 10 years down the line. The important thing is to make sure you look good in that photo — because it’s one more chance to get an audience. And is life really happening if no one is watching?

Generation Transparen­t can hardly wait for the next stage in our ever more public lives. They already dream of Google Home View where we will all watch each other watching TV, or slurping spaghetti in the kitchen —with optional Google “Bedroom and Bathroom View.”

Or Google Anatomy, where you’ll check out your friends’ X-rays, MRI scans and colonoscop­ies. Or Google Ogle to let you take a more private peek at your favourite friends, which is already happening on popular new “sexting” sites.

Generation Parent may eventually prove right and young people will get more private over time, once they’re job-or spouse-hunting.

But it’s more likely that privacy will just become a forgotten term — a relic of the 20th century before public and private life blurred. And before Canada’s Privacy Commission­er was replaced by a Publicity Commission­er.

Meanwhile, I think I’ll go out and do some barbecuing — in my jacket and tie.

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