Surveillance and YouTube

Recently, a Brazilian businessman working in Cologne got an emergency call from his home security system. The man connected to his home's webcam via his laptop and watched as a burglar stood in his bedroom, trying on his clothes.

Recently, a Brazilian businessman working in Cologne got an emergency call from his home security system. The man connected to his home's webcam via his laptop and watched as a burglar stood in his bedroom, trying on his clothes. Outraged (the burglar disdainfully rejected most of the man's wardrobe as hopelessly out of date), he phoned his wife, who phoned police, who surrounded the house and made an arrest.

So what?

Just as ATMs turned us into bank clerks, the Internet may ultimately turn us into part-time, screen-staring security guards. When it becomes cheap to deliver high-quality Webcam feeds to a smartphone, we should start to see services that provide human-powered surveillance (the humans in question being us) to the masses. We'll just leave our phones open on our desks, glancing occasionally at the shifting feeds from our network of home cameras, watching for movement out of the corners of our eyes.

If that comes to pass, would you really put a webcam in your bedroom? Or your bathroom? Maybe. I've noticed that people are much mellower about being in front of cameras than they were a few years ago. The comfort can probably be traced both to videoconferencing and to all those cameras perched atop monitors--after a while you get "CCD fatigue" and stop noticing the glassy-eyed Cyclopses. So I think we'll see pretty comprehensive coverage of the home. Of course, these security systems (like most systems) will be cracked--so you could find yourself on YouTube or (if you're particularly entertaining) America's Most Involuntary Home Videos. Which I'm sure you'll agree is a small price to pay for security