Wearable Tech World Feature Article
December 12, 2013

What Comes After Self-Absorbed Social Media Posts? The Answer is "Lifelogging"

Everybody has this one kind of friend: the one that feels the need to post an update on Facebook every time he or she has a second cup of coffee or goes for a run or cleans out the front closet. You start to wonder what’s next for these people - sharing long home movies of their entire lives?

You shouldn’t have asked.

The concept of “lifelogging,” or wearing a small personal camera to record one’s day, will strike you with either inspiration or horror, depending on what kind of person you are. With the wide arrival of Google Glass and other wearable technology that includes cameras that can be clipped to lapels, legions of people who think their everyday activities are so breathtaking they need to be recorded for posterity will begin appearing in public. (Some of them are already there).

Some believe it’s a great way to share how life was in the early twenty-first century with future generations. (And to be fair…wouldn’t it be cool to have a first-person perspective on what life was like 200 years ago)? Other people believe it’s an Orwellian nightmare coming true. Think about it…each time you go out in public, chances are becoming greater that you are being photographed and recorded without your knowledge, a bit-part player in someone else’s lifelog. Will this change people’s public behavior as the practice becomes more pervasive? Maybe, says Kitty Ireland, data curator at A.R.O., which produces the Saga lifelogging app (yes, these apps already exist).

“It’s becoming much more difficult to get away with behaving badly in public,” writes Ireland. “If you’re the kind of person who does incriminating or embarrassing things, the likelihood of evidence of your actions cropping up is increasing exponentially. For some people, the presence of cameras anywhere and everywhere may cause them to act differently — better, cooler, more like the person they wish they were. More likely, we’ll simply get used to being photographed and go on doing what we do.”

While many of us are aware that we are photographed daily without our knowledge by surveillance cameras in banks, stores and public buildings, not to mention by dashboard cams in cop cars and trucks or even satellites from space, the “lifelog” idea seems even more up close and personal.

And to look at it another way, what are the legal implications? After all, in order for someone to use your image in any commercial way today, you need to sign a release form. If I happen to be standing on a platform at Grand Central Station while someone else lifelogs his first visit to New York City, and my image is captured, what are the legal implications for me? If the guy is a performance artist and turns it into art to be displayed in a gallery or a film montage, isn’t my image being used commercially without my permission?

There are no easy answers here. (But if there are any, Google may have a few of them given the series of legal headaches the company has been through with its Google Street View cameras). But you can bet that the practice of lifelogging is going to be the consumer technology application that launched a thousand ships of lawyers. 

Edited by Cassandra Tucker

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