One of the articles summarized in this week’s Digest is about body-worn camera systems. These things have become quite popular with the advent of Google Glass, but I’m reminded of an interesting case I worked on several years ago, before all this.
My client was Steve Mann. Here’s his Wikipedia page if you want more information about him, but let’s just say that he has become known as one of the first "cyborgs" to walk among us. He has been pioneering body-worn camera systems for more than two decades now. It started when he was at MIT and he continues to push the envelope in his work as a professor at the University of Toronto.
The case I was involved with was not the typical privacy-related case I normally handle. It was a rather odd case in which Steve found himself in a dangerous situation while walking on campus because a movie studio had blocked off the safe route to his office. As a result, he slipped, fell and, unfortunately, many of the computers he was wearing on his body broke as a result. One thing that didn’t break was the tiny video camera that captured the incident, including the follow-up abuse Steve endured at the hands of the security guards hired by the movie production company. I jokingly coined the case "Cyborg vs the Hulk" because, yes, the movie being produced was in fact The Hulk!
Had it not been for the video evidence captured by Steve’s computers, the case would have been very difficult to pursue. But the evidence was strong, and we eventually reached an amicable solution for all parties concerned.
Body worn computers … They raise so many issues—in some ways enhancing the control we have over our personal information and in other ways diminishing it—that it can be difficult to contemplate. However, they are here now. Are we prepared? Will our social norms adapt appropriately? And, maybe more importantly, will the law have the capacity to adapt fast enough to protect the values we still hold dear?
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