Lost in a crowd
Readers, it's been a few days. I've been busy, had job interviews, and was watching the tennis (I love watching the major tennis events: when I was a kid I remember staying up to watch the finals. Tennis was the one sport I actually played as a child as well. I can't claim to have been any good at it but it was fun).
One of the things about sports coverage is there are lots of shots of the audience. The camera operators will zoom in on various members of the crowd, sometimes celebrities, sometimes just random fans. (Wimbledon at least doesn’t put couples up on a jumbotron!). But any hapless individual who went to the tennis could be beamed onto screens around the world.
This was true 20 or 30 years ago too (though a generation ago cameramen more obviously tended to focus on attractive women in the crowd; now they at least try to be a bit less biased). There’s no real complaint to be made by those who are filmed, in a privacy sense: a public event is by definition public. (Though I wouldn’t be thrilled to realize I’d been seen by millions while yawning or sneezing, or with ice cream smeared across my face).
And what once would have been a few seconds on TV is now forever online, with the possibility not just of being recognised by friends but tracked down by strangers. Anyone can replay that video and zoom in, and put the faces into recognition software, like Pim Eyes, as this story makes clear. This software found folks in all kinds of photos, from all over the world. You were in the background of someone’s picture that time you were having coffee in Seville; you were photographed at your brother’s graduation. Anyone could take a still from the crowd at the tennis and figure out the identities of the people in it.
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