The world is watching you

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The world is watching you

In 1876, Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone and soon, you could speak over great distances. The world rejoiced, but no technology comes solely with benefits. Years later, eavesdropping techniques were invented.

In 1894, the Eastman Kodak Company introduced a portable camera. Before that, portraits came at a high price. But the new camera made photography affordable and convenient.

Kodak changed the world, but it led to the rise of the paparazzi. The two technologies - the telephone and the camera - have cost us all a very important thing: our privacy. Critic and journalist Edwin Lawrence Godkin forecast that personal privacy would be lost because of these new inventions.

It was around this time that the right to one’s privacy emerged. Boston attorney Samuel D. Warren and young District Attorney Louis D. Brandeis wrote a paper that was published in the Harvard Law Review in 1890.

“Instantaneous photographs and newspaper enterprise have invaded the sacred precincts of private and domestic life: the numerous mechanical devices threaten to make good the prediction that what is whispered in the closet shall be proclaimed from the house-tops,” it read.

The paper, “The Right to Privacy,” ignited a heated debate, and infringement of privacy was made illegal. The paper became one of the most famous legal documents in history (Daniel Solove, “The Future of Reputation”).

The latest sex bribery scandal in Korea has led to the resignation of the vice justice minister. The course of disclosure was shady, and truth is still in the shadows. The personnel verification process of the Blue House is under criticism.

But in addition to this huge controversy, other issues lie beneath the surface. It was a built-in camera on a cell phone that made this fiasco possible. The video taken on a phone turned out to be powerful and destructive.

There are many examples of cell phone cameras invading privacy. Anytime you go out to a restaurant, you can see people taking photos of their food before they eat. The urge to take a picture has surpassed the basic human instinct to eat. Sometimes, phone cameras solve problems. When you’re in a traffic accident, you make sure to take a photo of the scene. Cell cameras can also bring 15 minutes of fame.

Of course, there is a way to avoid this constant surveillance. You just follow the advice of Confucius, “The wise man acts with prudence even when alone.” He also stressed, “Think no evil at any time of the day.” But it’s not easy for average people to follow such teachings. Do we need to make it illegal to snap shots without consent?

*The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

By Yi Jung-jae
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