For many decades after people started using cameras we could be fairly sure that few people would actually see the photos. Processing film was costly and difficult.
Few photos would be printed, and then they would mainly go into albums. Friends and family members may actually see the pictures, but very few photos would be in any sense published. No, photos were a private matter.
Except, of course, where the News media were concerned.
A few of those News photographers make a nuisance of themselves as Paparazzi — the scoundrels pointing huge lenses at celebrities, capturing every detail of their daily lives.
But most of us ordinary folk are at no risk of such intrusion.
Or are we?
Cameras are everywhere
In 2010 almost anyone reading this is likely to be photographed at any time, in any place. That tourist on the street may snap you as you pass in front of an interesting building.
A local may whip out a cellphone and snap you as you walk the dog, or cycle past. It’s probably not you — they may simply have been capturing images of ‘blue’ objects, or pets, or ‘people doing everyday activities’, or the person behind you.
Many shops, public buildings, bus stations, streets, have cameras collecting images of all who pass by. The Google Street View car may have caught you as it whizzed past.
Many of us have a camera with us at all times, in our cellphones or music players, or some other gadget. They’re not just ‘still’ cameras either; video cameras are increasingly tiny and common.
Photos are tagged
The photos and videos being recorded are more and more often being ‘tagged’, with location data such as latitude and longitude.
Photos are very public
If you’re in a public place you must expect that casual photos of you will probably appear on the Internet. That tourist, that local, is probably going to add the photos they took to their Facebook page, to Flickr, to their blog.
In fact, the photo may be online before you even realise you appeared in it. Many devices now send photos instantly to the Internet.
Common software recognises faces
Even intro-level software matches photos these days — just look at Apple’s iPhoto, included on every Mac. Name a person in a couple of photos and the software recognises that person in most other photos.
This kind of thing used to happen only on TV in CSI.
In 2010 we’re all celebrities and we’re all paparazzi. Did you realise your life was so public?
Photo by SaZeOd, with a Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic licence.
Written by Miraz Jordan for, and reproduced from CommunityNet Aotearoa Panui, June 2010. This article has been modified for publication here.