Privacy rights activist or annoying jerk? forums forums Politics and other things Privacy rights activist or annoying jerk?

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    Meet the Surveillance Camera Man.

    This man mysteriously appears in various parts of Seattle and confronts people with his video camera. Unless the subjects of his videos physically engage him, he defiantly refuses to leave or to shut off his camera. All that is known about Surveillance Camera Man’s identity is that it is a man because his voice is heard in some of the videos; he is never seen.

    Some of the people in these videos ask, “why are you doing this” or “what are you going to do with this video that you’re making,” and Surveillance Camera Man’s talking point is simply, “I’m just making a video.” In a few of the videos, he elaborates further by saying something like, “There are video cameras in other parts of this establishment, but you don’t seem to have a problem with those other cameras.”

    Do you think that these videos are authentic? Participants in some discussion forums have said that the people in the videos are actors (but have not offered any proof). Is the Surveillance Camera Man simply an annoying prankster? Is he carrying out a valid social expermient? Is he making a valid point about the virtual non-existence of privacy in modern society?


    His point is valid. There is a lot of video out there now, and it’s growing. We aren’t to the level of say, London UK, but getting there.

    People need to think about that. And this guy brings up the matter of trust and who exactly is viewing that video, or if they are at all. I’ve seen some limited vision AI demonstrations where a computer can sort through hundreds of people, highlighting the one “odd” person to be of interest. Say one guy wearing a jacket on a warm day kind of interest.

    There is also the “lost in the noise” factor. Sure, there is a lot of footage, but that’s good and bad. Good in that who cares about Joe Bloomstone out for a walk. Bad, if somehow Joe gets tagged for something or other. Then they can go back and know a ton.

    He’s trolling, but in a moderately useful way.


    I found the videos amusing to watch, partly because of the suspense factor. However, I was left wondering whether the people in these videos were reacting more to the presence of the camera man than they were to being recorded. If that’s the case, then I think that his “social experiment” is flawed.

    I tried to put myself in the places of the people shown in the videos:

    • The bank employees might have been worried that the camera man was “casing out” the bank buildings for a burglary or robbery. It could just be standard procedure that they don’t allow photography or videography of their buildings.
    • Scientology came under heavy media scrutiny in the early 1990s, so the Scientologists might be leery of anybody who looks like a reporter.
    • The college professors were upset that somebody disrupted their learning environment. I found one of them to be quite eloquent when he told the camera man something like, “My students have paid for the class time, and you are taking that away from them.”
    • Some of the women might have been worried that the camera man could be a potential rapist or mugger.
    • The immigrants might have been worried that the camera man might have been somebody looking for people to report to INS.

    I was left wondering about the following alternate scenarios:

    1) what if the camera man had set up his camera in a conspicuous way (such as having it on a tripod) but then stepped away from it?

    2) what if the camera man had used a hidden camera and not revealed that he was making a video until his subjects asked him what he was doing?

    3) what if a small group of people, posing as tourists, were to shoot videos of one another and the video “accidentally” captured images nearby people or bank buildings?


    In a way, the experiment is flawed, but that flaw is instructive.

    A recording doesn’t have any intent directly assigned to it. So the tripod might be a curio, with intent assigned by those being recorded. Could be fun, or something easily ignored.

    A person there complicates it.

    But, there almost always is a person somewhere. Maybe people need to think about that, or do they?

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