One nation under CCTV

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One nation under CCTV

Allegations of sexual assault that began with Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein are making headlines every day. Actor Dustin Hoffman has apologized for allegations stemming back to 1985, and Brett Ratner, director of the “Rush Hour” series, has also been accused of sexual harassment.

Hollywood is not the only place where men in powerful positions make inappropriate sexual advances toward women, but the offenders seem to all have memory problems. The victims clearly remember the incidents, but hardly no one admits such incidents when they’re the accused. They all say they don’t remember. If only there were recordings of such incidents, like from dash cams in traffic accidents, would the accused not make such lame excuses.

While it may sound absurd, people will soon have the ability to record and keep images of their lives 24/7 using body cams. It may be our future, given the current size of content uploaded to Facebook by users who share photos and videos from their daily lives. Cameras are getting smaller, while data storage technology is progressing.

Some people are already wearing body cams like dash cams on cars. Some tourists in New York wear small cameras on their heads to record everything they see. It is a variation of the small camera that cyclists wear on their helmets or shoulders.

About 50,000 body cams are worn by cops in the United States to manage their work behavior and to be used as evidence in possible legal disputes. Parking enforcement officers also wear body cams to avoid disputes.

In the United Kingdom, where a psychiatric facility had its staff wear body cameras, the patients showed less aggressive behavior. Similarly in Seoul, more surveillance cameras have been installed on the streets, and the effect has been a slight dip in crime.

Nevertheless, there are significant adverse effects among civilians. Some might ask others for permission recording, but others might not mention the presence of small cameras. In this case, so-called portrait rights might be violated. The information uploaded to Google and Facebook could also be exploited by an AI algorithm.

Most of all, body cams threaten the essence of human interaction. If you know the other person is making a 24-hour video journal, it is doubtful how honest the conversation will be. We have already lost much of our conversations over dinner to smartphones. We need to make sure body cams do not take away our humanity.

JoongAng Ilbo, Nov. 4, Page 30

*The author is the New York correspondent for the JoongAng Ilbo.

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