January 2nd, 2007

Video News Footage from your Cell Phone

The latest big news captured via cell phone came from Iraq. Someone actually recorded last week’s execution. See story. I checked out a version of it on YouTube. Yes, it was grainy and there were a lot of shots of the floor and chaos. The audio was sharp. The phone seemed to have a reasonable amount of ‘zoom’ capability. With as many shots of the steps and floor, it seems clear that the video was being taken surreptitiously. Besides, if they wanted video footage, they would have invited the media.

It’s not the first time that video footage taken from a cell phone has been spread around the Web, and it’s just a matter of time before this is done easily from phone to phone. It’s yet another category of user-created content or reporting from citizens without the restrictions put on journalists.

Such episodes, however, raise a lot of questions. What about individual privacy? Cell phones have been banned from locker rooms for years. YouTube asks viewers to register their age b/c of the graphic nature of the video, but who has responsibility for this longer term? Who will really verify ‘age.’ Who bears responsibility for accurate reporting or ensuring that photos and videos have not been doctored? Such content can be damaging even if not illegal. Who owns the content?

Certainly this issue is not new. Affordable video cameras have been around for a long time. Cell phones, however, are a form of hidden camera – most people expect that you using it to talk.

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