Viewfinder: Privacy

According to Wikipedia, “The Truman Show delusion is a type of persecutory/grandiose delusion in which patients believe their lives are staged plays or reality television shows.” The disorder was named after a motion picture staring Jim Carrey in which all the people in the his life have been paid actors, thus Truman is living in a constructed-reality, being televised globally around the clock.

The basis of this delusion is that video cameras are recording every move patients make without their permission or knowledge. While the delusion is far-fetched, the concept of being secretly recorded has become commonplace. ATM machines, retail stores, traffic lights and waiting rooms have become places where most people expect to be recorded. In the news each week, there are cases reported of distasteful secret recording in rest rooms, office cubicles, bedrooms and even from unmanned aerial vehicles.

This is the trouble that sometimes comes with technology. As the video imaging chips have become inexpensive, video cameras are nearly disposable. The video can be recorded in the camera or wirelessly transmitted to a nearby monitor or recorder. We have a new temptation to manage now that millions of people have the power to purchase and hide tiny video cameras. The temptation to record without permission will become more apparent as more devices are manufactured with a video camera as one of their features. Not only mobile phones but door bells, thermostats, clocks and rear-view mirrors in cars are just a few examples. In the near future, some of these devices will be sold to automatically record data in 24-hour loops without the owner needing to make the decision to start a recording. Instead of the owner being required to hit the record button, he or she will have to hit the non-record button. In other words, they will need to take action to not record video at a desired point in time.


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The impact of this development is many fold. Our rights to privacy can be easily violated so our expectations of privacy are diminished. Some may argue that this leads to greater transparency but personally, I am a big believer in the Fourth Amendment of the US Constitution; “the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures.” While transparency has merit, privacy reigns supreme.

I strongly discourage you from recording anyone without his or her knowledge and permission. If you learn about someone else who is using video cameras for this visual eavesdropping, please remind them of the moral and ethical obligations to treat others as they would like to be treated. Video recording is a powerful responsibility and thus should be undertaken by those with noble character.

Matthew York is Videomaker‘s Publisher/Editor.

The Videomaker Editors are dedicated to bringing you the information you need to produce and share better video.


  1. Coming from a narrative filmmaking standpoint, 24-hour video surveillance and Wi-Fi enabled spying (page 18 in this volume) is interesting in terms of a potential sci-fi murder mystery plot.
    But reading this article as a human being was much more touching. The inclusion of our Fourth Amendment really struck home. It's important to realize the flip side of our wonderful world of movie magic!

  2. In today’s society privacy is being evaded day by day. You would think that one should know the difference between what to record and what not to record. However so many people in authority use their authority above and beyond the law. It is important to get footage of brutal attacks on people that’s in authority caught taking matters into their own hands. I’m convinced that there is a code of ethics called professionalism in every area. When you forget about ones Privacy, and think filming innocent people with personal mental or physical issues. I believe that’s the time to put down the camera and rethink why you chose this field in the first place. I believe our duty as photographers or producers should be done with integrity and not mark ones sickness, disease, ailment or life issues and struggles.

  3. I feel that our privacy is being invaded each and every day by people that have little or no respect for others. In a field of photography and or production their is a very thin line when it comes to ethics. Some people forget about ones privacy and feel that they can film whatever and whomever and where-ever they like just to make a dollar or two.

  4. I feel that our privacy is compromised because a lot of videos that became popular a few years ago were pranks. These pranks had people go into another persons face with a camera just for a quick buck.

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