Almost too painful to tell

Almost too painful to tell

Summary: You may have heard that an 18-year-old Welshman had his friends film him as he stole a pair of glasses from a charity worker. He then (I can barely type this) posted the video to YouTube.


You may have heard that an 18-year-old Welshman had his friends film him as he stole a pair of glasses from a charity worker. He then (I can barely type this) posted the video to YouTube. (Presumably he expected to stay anonymous.) The police were thus able to identify and apprehend him. They let him off with a warning

So what?

On the surface, this story looks too obvious for commentary. Yes, the young man has (as somebody once put it) played a few too many games without a helmet. Yes, his friends aren't any too bright either. Yes, a warning seems inadequate to both the crime and the sheer gormlessness of its perpetrator. Leave all of that aside. The real point here is that a violent crime was recorded--albeit with the (utterly incomprehensible) consent of its perpetrator--by a civilian with a video camera. As camera phones increasingly become video camera phones, we're going to see many more instances of this type of citizen policing. We will, in fact, become a nation of tattle-tales, recording infractions great and small--everything from muggings to illegally parked cars to (ask Kate Moss) use of recreational drugs--and then sending the tapes to the police or, if they're particularly juicy, YouTube. Actually, YouTube is probably the way to go if your goal is blackmail and you can't identify your victim (maybe you caught him committing mime in public). Just threaten to put the video on YouTube--so many people visit that it's hard to stay anonymous for long...something that a certain Welshman now understands better than most


Topic: Social Enterprise

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  • Tip of the iceberg?

    If I recall correctly David Brin predicted this in 1990 in Earth. Cadres of senior citizens took back their quasi-public spaces with eyeglass videocams linked wirelessly to home video depositories, which fed directly to law enforcement at the push of a button.

    To me, the significant act is not the recording, but the recognition of the perpetrator. This will really become a big deal when automatic facial recognition technology becomes widely available. Remember all those Facebook photos? Better not knock over a drugstore in the future, they will just press a button and send the correlated photos to the police.
    • I'm sorry,

      I almost forgot, better not protest against your government in the future either. Or get caught with a cigarette in your mouth, that image will go right to the health insurer. Or read a comic in the bookstore without paying, the publisher might debit your account.
  • Blame reality television

    Not sure your tattle-tale story is relevant here, as the clod in question seems to have filmed himself (or been filmed by his friends) and posted his own video online. To me, this speaks more about the myspace generation, about children who have grown up with reality television, about the generation we've raised to be exhibtionists.

    As far as the tattle-tales go, no need for citizens to help, the government will soon have their own cameras on every street corner. They won't need our help.
    tic swayback
  • Private owned surveillance systems, more important now.

    On a related topic...

    As expected, private surveillance systems are now becoming more important than goverment owned ones. Now, we should ask if personal systems (like cell phone cameras) will become far more important than fixed systems.

    When all citizens can take pictures or video of any crime, then all citizens become part of a kind of big fat surveillance grid.