Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Modern Technology has destroyed our privacy

I know, it is a self-evident statement, but with all the arguments over what the government may or may not be collecting for the war on terror, I think it's important to remember that whatever our feelings are on our privacy, we really have no privacy to speak of anymore.

The latest example is a District Comcast employee who was fired for falling asleep on a customer call. I happen to think the firing was wrong, but Comcast was forced by the customer, who videotaped the sleeping technician and published the video on the internet for hundreds of thousands of people.

BTW, he fell asleep while WAITING ON HOLD for an answer from the office. So if someone deserved to be fired, maybe it wasn't this guy.

Thus, not only did a probably good employee with a family lose his job, his chance of getting another job in a similar field is probably very low, and he is the butt of jokes of people all over the world that know nothing about him.

Maybe there shouldn't be a law against this, but frankly we didn't used to NEED laws against this, because we treated people as human beings instead of things to be exploited for our own enjoyment.

That is the focus of my column for this week, which should be in the Potomac News tomorrow morning.

Meanwhile, here's the story:

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Cable operator Comcast Corp. said on Monday it fired an employee who was caught on camera sleeping on a customer's couch after the video clip was shared all over the Web.
...
Finkelstein filmed the operative sleeping, edited and set the video to the Eels pop song "I Need Some Sleep," and shared the 58-second footage on popular online video site YouTube.com.

Titled "A Comcast Technician Sleeping On My Couch," more than 300,000 people have viewed the video since it was posted last Tuesday.
...
Comcast said it has fired the employee and apologized to Finkelstein, of Washington, D.C., for the "unsatisfactory customer experience."

"We obviously do not condone what was represented in the video," the cable operator, which has over 21 million subscribers in the United States, said in a statement.


Of course, the customer complaints were NOT the fault of the technician, who was there to FIX problems Comcast hadn't corrected in over two weeks. And the idea of rewarding a customer who violates your employee's privacy seems a bit harsh, but Comcast has enough of an image problem that it's hard to fault them on this one.

But I still ask, why do we take delight in destroying people's lives?

3 comments:

Cory Chandler said...

I'm sorry, but you'll have to explain to me how this guy had a reasonable expectation of privacy while he was in someone else's home. In a living room. It's not as though the camera was mounted in the bathroom and caught him urinating.

Charles said...

I don't know if you are imposing a legal standard, I was speaking of a cultural standard. There was a time when you wouldn't thinnk of taking somebody else's picture and using it without talking to them.

And before modern technology, the cost of filming a worker in your house and distributing it throughout the country was prohibitive, which gave you some expectation that it wouldn't happen.

But today, anybody can do this, with readily available materials.

In fact, with publicly available cameras throughout the world, you could make a documentary about life in a city you don't live in, starring people you were never within a thousand miles of.

And I think making a video of someone without their knowledge, and putting it on the internet to make fun of them, is an invasion of their privacy, whether it is reasonable to expect it or not.

I guess I'm just a dinasaur, a throwback to a kinder era.

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