To: [Bill Thompson] Subject: Benevolent uses of Camera Phones and more [In response to his piece on the new cellphone-cum-cameras, ]

Dear Bill,

The examples you gave would apply to regular cameras anyway. Here's an
example using the new feature, internet connectivity. Oh, and it's a
positive example. reported this summer on two
teachers who observed US police beating a defenseless student.  They
took pictures, but these two (experts in nonviolence) ended up being
beaten, and their camera smashed, though they tried to call 911 (US
emergency hotline) for police help(!) while beaten. Now imagine if
they had an internet connected camera which *instantly* uploaded the
images, so that even after the camera being smashed,the images would
be safely online. What a profound defense against police brutality! We
will see cases like this in the next 5 years, I predict.

Taking it farther ahead into the future (and moving from pictures to
video), what about the rape epidemic no one wants to talk about,
namely of prison inmates, not to speak of their beatings by fellow
inmates and by authorities? The only way this grotesque and barbaric
state of affairs will end is when each inmate has the right to choose
"on" or "off" for a 24/7 video of their cell which saves it all on an
internet location which is independent, meaning, prison officials
cannot erase it. Lawyers for an inmate can then demand "2:30-4pm
Tuesday, Feb 18, 2008" to be handed over to them by the independent
agency.  The technology should be ready and affordable within 5 to 15
years. A major "what have you got to hide?" campaign by human rights
activists will be needed to overcome the resistance on an absolutely
massive scale that they are sure to be met by, from those whose power
depends on the ability to abuse, beat, humiliate, and intimidate.

Finally, imagine affordable "jewelry" any woman (or man) can wear
anywhere which transmits 24/7 video to their home (and a backup site
for good measure) and what this would do to reduce street crime
e.g. rape, mugging, etc (don't forget voice identification software is
improving, and could be used in conjunction with the taped records)
Sure, one can imagine the counter-moves by potential assailants, but a
technology doesn't have to be 100% effective to make a substantial
difference.  Deterrence matters.

We need to spend mental energy thinking about how to use technology
for social improvement, as a supplement to the valid and important
watchdog function of warning about potential ill effects. Please
understand: it's not about my (or anyone) predicting a rosy
future. This isn't about prediction (aka what "must" happen) but about
what *could* happen, thus providing vision to civil society and
activists as to ways to harness technology for social progress.

PS if you find these kinds of ideas interesting, see and the piece "The
Revolution Will Be Webcast" it links to, which is one of 3 (soon 4)
strategic vision pieces for radically democratic social change and
ways existing and emerging technologies over the next 5-15 years can be
used. It was long, long before Seattle (and before the WWW was widely
known) when I wrote Electronic Activism parts I and II in 1992 and
1993 about the nowadays-old-hat internet technologies and how they can
be used (as indeed they have been, on a massive scale, by civil
society, since then)

Harel Barzilai

Co-founder, March 1991, UseNet's
Founder,, 2000