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Apr 01 2014

You too can be a creep with this handy device

A new campaign on crowd-funding site, IndieGogo, seems to be doing well. From March 19 until today (March 31), it has managed to raise $8,171 (US), which is eight times the original goal. What is this important project people are furiously throwing money at? It’s none other than a creepy little camera device to take pictures of non-consenting adults (i.e. without their knowledge), who are more than likely in vulnerable positions!

Please welcome the Spy Cam Peek-I!

You know how you’ve always wanted to take pictures of people, but were afraid they’d get angry because you didn’t ask their permission? What weirdos, amirite? Sheesh! All you want to do is take advantage of their current state, record it and do gods-know-what with your image of this stranger. Why are they being so paranoid? Do they think they’re Edward Snowden or something?

Yes: apparently “discreet” is cool, not creepy or potentially harmful.

Let’s examine what this item is doing exactly.

no one will ever know you were the ONE who took THAT picture or film THAT video!!! So do you feel like James Bond yet?

Sweet. It’s not like people – particularly women – suffer massively from having pictures circulating the web, without their consent, potentially damaging their reputations, their loved ones and their lives because of aggressive ex’s, stalkers, etc. Luckily, every person who takes a picture of a non-consenting person is a good-hearted, perfectly good individual – who knows exactly what will happen when he uploads those pics!

Good thing it can’t be used to look at people entering passwords, pins, etc., too. Haha! No, it’s good fun! Calm down.

Do I feel like James Bond? You mean like a creepy person who is aggressive toward women? YEAH, I DO! THANKS!

Make awesome shots of your friends, completely unaware that they were on camera!!!

I already hate it when they do that. Why would I be ok with them doing it with your invisible device? Why would they be ok with it? If you’re saying I shouldn’t care about my friends’ feelings regarding photographs, then the problem is your device – not my respect for others’ autonomy.

Don’t scare your astonishing award winning picture away! Peek-I is there for you!

I assume you mean the target of your picture, not the picture itself. And that you might scare someone away is probably a reason to reconsider whether it’s a good thing to take that picture. Oh, those pesky morals!

Surely, every one of you was in a situation where it would be nice to take a picture, but…
Not comfortable to do it!
Therefore, you pretend to do something on your device, and at the same time trying to capture the desired scene with device’s camera.

And of course just because we want to do something, we should have all the tools available to do so. I really want every first edition of Dostoevsky: will someone start an Indiegogo campaign to give me the tools to break in to various museums and literary archives to obtain them? But… but why? I really want them! And apparently it’s sufficient justification for people to make tools to see any desires met. Like taking picture of non-consenting others, for example!

Again: that people feel uncomfortable both taking pictures and, importantly, not wanting their picture taken is a sign maybe… maaaaaybe something is not right with the situation. Maybe the problem is your creepy desire, not the negation of it.

Only a few of us have the courage to openly take pictures of other people or objects, at times it’s merely impossible.

Er, people seem very willing to ask others. There might be hesitation because of personalities and so on, but presumably you could just ask. If you can’t ask, then that doesn’t give you free licence to just take the picture.

You can also get great shots of weirdoes walking down the street right next to you, without them realizing what you are doing.

Yeah. Those damned “weirdoes” and their weirdness. Let’s photograph and laugh at how stupid they look. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with laughing at strangers, mocking them, sticking their face all over the Internet: it’s not like they have feelings, loved ones, or careers. Nope: they’re just there for us to laugh at. If they didn’t want to be photographed, they should stop being weirdos!

And here comes the obvious one.

Want a picture of your secret crush? You can make that happen and your crush won’t even think you are stalking him or her, because you will be looking in a different direction

Did you know creepy behaviour is negated by looking in another direction! Wow! That’s amazing! Tell me more, Gandalf.

Just because you don’t get caught doing a crime, doesn’t mean you didn’t still do a crime. Similarly, just because someone doesn’t catch you being stalkerish and creepy doesn’t mean you aren’t. Indeed, a problem we have is that people refuse to believe they’re capable of creepy, stalkerish, harassing behaviour. This seems particularly the case with men.

Also that’s a helluva way to become “closer” to your crush (Indeed: I’m not sure such a person should be with a partner, if they treat people without regard to consent.)

Throughout the campaign page, they demonstrate exactly what you should and can use it for. I don’t know about the legality of pictures, so have a look at my two screencaps on my Twitter page: here and here. The first shows the device being used to photograph down a woman’s top; the second shows the device being used to capture a picture under the table, aimed at a woman’s legs, while she’s wearing a skirt.

OK. Let that sink in: on the page proudly promoting this device are two images showing exactly what you can do with it. I imagine that the majority of women would not be OK with having such pictures taken of them, without their consent. Or maybe I’m just a “weirdo” that should be photographed too?

But here comes the best part. After all this – all of this – comes this sentence:

If you want to take sneaky pictures of people without them knowing, this is the way to do it. Just don’t be creepy about it.

Excuse me?

Just don’t be creepy about it.

What?

Just don’t be creepy about it.

How…?

Just don’t be creepy about it.

But…

Just don’t be creepy about it.

You…

Just don’t be creepy about it.

No…

Just don’t be creepy about it.

WHAT?

This… Ok. Wait. You’re basically saying the following:

HEY GUYS: HERE’S A DOLL WITH ONE TORN EYE, COVERED IN BLOOD, AND EVERY FIVE MINUTES, IT WHISPERS “I AM BECOME DEATH, DESTROYER OF WORLDS” – YOU SHOULD TOTALLY GET IT. BUT DON’T CREEP PEOPLE OUT WITH IT!

You’ve designed a device that is the epitome of creepiness but telling people not to be creepy or invasive? How? What?

Throughout this, I’m not asking for this device to be banned – I don’t know what the ramifications will be. There is certainly an argument to be made if people/most likely women will be violated in their personal space. I can’t see what good reason there is to own such a device beyond mere “fun”. And yet such a minor benefit doesn’t measure up against potential harms that could occur, considering that anyone can own these.

I don’t know what the solution is. What I do know is that I want this device to have never existed; for such actions to not gain such support; for creepshots of women not to be part of advertising a device, without raising any concerns (for IndieGogo, commenters, etc.). I don’t pretend to speak for anyone, least of all women. And I’m not against adults wanting sexy pictures to be taken, to have it distributed – but that can be done with full consent and acknowledgment of such people as persons and them willingly doing so. But we should not be so casual or dismissive of people’s autonomy – especially when it comes to creating environment and scenarios where an invasion of privacy is treated as a joke and unimportant.

I apologise for frequent posts on sexism, but I they just seem to be in my radar. And I won’t have only supporters of creepy devices having their voices heard when it comes to such actions, behaviours, attitudes and items.

14 comments

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  1. 1
    leni

    I apologise for frequent posts on sexism…

    Why?

    Well no matter! You can easily “fix” it by framing anything that might adversely affect women as something that actually hurts men more, thus legitimizing it.

    You’ve got lots to work with, too!

    There are gay male creepers, there are female creepers. There are suspicious wives and angry exes of any gender. There are strippers and prostitutes that might use it to blackmail their clientele. And don’t forget pedophiles! And what about the poor men who use this device and end up in jail because some stupid slut lied about not wanting it up her skirt while she was on the subway on her way to work? Just focus on these things and no one will demand apologies from you for posting about sexism, nor will they believe that your concerns are just more feminist pearl-clutching.

    /sarcasm

    (That sarcasm was not aimed at you by the way. That was aimed at anyone who would criticize you for posting too much about sexism :) )

  2. 2
    Tauriq Moosa

    @Leni

    Because I’m not specifically a writer focused on sexism. I’m not apologising for writing on sexism, per se, only that I’m writing on one particular topic it “seems”.

  3. 3
    lochaber

    When I went to Dr. Stollznow’s fundraiser page, that popped up on the front page.

    Kinda disturbing that a fundraiser existing to directly fight sexual harassment is… advertising a device that has little use outside of sexual harassment. :(

    Only hope I have is that the magnets they have on it will mess with some of the phones, or it won’t be as easy to apply/remove as they claim.

    disappointed, but unfortunately not surprised by the popularity of that item.

  4. 4
    leni

    Because I’m not specifically a writer focused on sexism.

    I know. It still seemed unnecessary.

  5. 5
    Tauriq Moosa

    @Leni:

    It still seemed unnecessary.

    Point.

  6. 6
    Copyleft

    Funded eight times over, and still has 48 days of fundraising to go! Impressive.

  7. 7
    Markovitch

    Creepy bullshit aside, this seems like it might be useful for people who want to unobtrusively get a photos of police officers and public officials doing unethical things. Being obvious about photographing the police is a good way to a truncheon to the face, regardless of whether it’s legal or not. There are some valid uses for a tool like this — but the people running the project seem to have chosen to target the creepy stalker demographic.

  8. 8
    Tauriq Moosa

    @ Markovitch #7

    >> “it might be useful for people who want to unobtrusively get a photos of police officers and public officials doing unethical things.”

    That’s a very good point. Hadn’t thought of that.

  9. 9
    Kilian Hekhuis

    Good point or no, that’s not how they are marketing it, given the shots of women’s legs and breasts.

    I sent indiegogo a tweet and an e-mail, asking them to remove the fundraiser. Not much chance that will happen, but then again, the PUA/rape manual was removed from kickstarter, so…

  10. 10
    jesse

    Leaving aside the creep factor for a device like this, to a degree they’ve already been beaten to it. Just type “Spy cam” into Amazon.com. I got 20 pages of results. Yes, this crew chose the creepy stalker demographic. But looking at the funding level they sought and the very real costs of making any piece of tech, I sense a novelty product here, like the old X-Ray specs they used to advertise in the backs of comic books.

  11. 11
    John Horstman

    I can’t see what good reason there is to own such a device beyond mere “fun”.

    Well, the short answer is that people want to hide their images (not have them photographed and spread around) for all sorts of reasons. Some are perfectly good reasons – e.g. your examples of not wanting non-consensual pornographic images of oneself distributed or not wanting passwords or pins recorded – while others are not good reasons – hiding unethical behavior, like the police violence cited above or even possibly something like sexual harassment/assault where the target feels like any overt attempt to get evidence might precipitate an increase in physical violence. Spy cameras have been around as long as technically feasible; the usual approach is to not ban them but to ban their use in most circumstances.

    To be clear, I”m not really sure that the benefits outweigh the drawbacks, but the benefits are actually rather similar in kind to the drawbacks, if entirely opposite in effect.

  12. 12
    bigwhale

    Imagine a waiter in Hollywood getting all kinds of shots of celebrities.

  13. 13
    Chris J

    I think the line about “don’t be creepy about it” was removed from the description or something… I didn’t see it there. The part about secretly photographing your crush seems to be gone as well. I think they tried to purge some of the explicit creepiness…

  14. 14
    Chris J

    Interestingly enough, the only users pictured in the images on the current indiepage are women, and both seem to be using their camera to spy on what appears to be the implication of a boyfriend doing something illicit. I sense serious marketing control going on.

  1. 15
    The Reading List, 4/9/2014 » Almost Diamonds

    […] You too can be a creep with this handy device–”What weirdos, amirite? Sheesh! All you want to do is take advantage of their current state, record it and do gods-know-what with your image of this stranger.” […]

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