When Everyone Is The Paparazzi
By Mike Masnick, Tue Dec 07 03:15:00 GMT 2004

News sources have been asking readers to send in cameraphone shots of news events for a while now. However, leave it to the tabloids to take it all to the next level.

It was newsworthy back when various news sources (both online and off) started accepting cameraphone photos of news events from readers. It just started to touch on the possibilities of "citizen journalism" enabled by cameraphones. However, cameraphones aren't just about the fact that more people have cameras on them at any moment, but that those cameras are connected.

Suddenly, hot news events, such as celebrities caught in embarrassing situations can go from live event to news stories just as fast as a cameraphone photo can be taken and sent electronically to the nearest (in the electronic sense) gossip rag. Tabloids are apparently offering up good money to people who send them the best compromising snapshots.

With the ability to move the snapshots off the phone nearly as fast as the photos are taken, it removes the ability for the offended party to "destroy the film" before the snapshot is available (though, it doesn't mean the photographer is going to get away without bodily harm).

What will be even more interesting, however, is seeing the next stage of this at work. Celebrities (no matter which lettered list they're on) may not be doing offending or embarrassing things all the time. The amateur cameraphone paparazzi may not want to be seen as stalking such a person, but could easily start to build up a more focused group of people, communicating by phone to track the activities of various celebrities without them ever being aware that they were being followed and photographed.

Of course, the other side of this argument is that such techniques aren't just for celebrities. Almost anyone could be tracked or stalked using similar methods, making the whole idea of privacy in public a thing of the past. While this may be scary for some, it's what's already happening. Unfortunately, simply complaining about the disappearance of privacy isn't going to change things. People need to just be more aware that their actions in public places may be recorded and to learn to act accordingly. They also now have the power to record events themselves, to make sure the context is accurate -- and to catch anyone stalking them in the act. People are starting to realize that cameraphones make it a different world -- and the expectations of privacy are shifting for just about everyone.