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Ethics and Technology
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Ethics and Technology


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© Image by Anne Marte Gardenier

Self-Censorship around Smart Cameras


Imagine a future with smart cameras everywhere, watching your every move. When you’re at work, at school, getting groceries, driving on the highway, or even when you’re at home watching a movie on your smart TV.

You might think: that future doesn’t seem so different from the present. There are surveillance cameras everywhere in public spaces, and we are often watched by our neighbors, family, colleagues, and friends.

But there is something significantly different about a future with smart cameras, powered by computer vision technology. Such smart systems can infer all kinds of information about us: who we are, how we walk and dress, how we feel in a particular moment, and so on.

Moreover, smart cameras are not just used for surveillance in public places, but also in stores to enable cash desk free shopping, at workplaces to select good job candidates, and maybe even by our insurance company to check if we drive safely.

The omni-presence of smart cameras can cause us to change our behavior in unintended ways, simply because they makes us feel uncomfortable.

Even though we cannot say that this behavior change is the result of manipulation, coercion, or other problematic exercises of power, there does seem to be something problematic about it.


We might not always be affected by the constant gaze of smart cameras, or be affected in the same ways.


But for those of us who are, our freedom to be our authentic self is at stake.

About the author

Rosalie Waelen is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Twente and part of a Marie Skłodowska-Curie ITN called PROTECT. Her research is about the ethical implications of video analytics technology and she is interested in critical theory and the relation between ethics and power.