Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Was there @The5PointCafe in the 1890s? @ITIFdc describes the history of the @Kodak fiend

Back in February 2013, I wrote a post about the Shotwell's Bar controversy. If this has escaped your memory bank, this arose during the heady days of Google Glass version 1.0, when a San Francisco bar - yes, a San Francisco bar - made fun of people wearing Google Glass. As I noted in the post, this displeased Robert Scoble at the time.

However, the people at Shotwell's didn't react negatively to Google Glass solely because it made people look goofy (even if they weren't having a naked conversation with themselves in the shower). There were also privacy implications.

Dave Meinert, who runs the 5 Point Cafe in Seattle, said those wearing the spectacles will have to remove them if they want to come in.

He has put up a sign on the wall which reads: ‘Respect our customers’ privacy as we’d expect them to respect yours.’

These privacy concerns are nothing new, as the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation points out.

(At this time I should point out that I have a vested interest in this conversation, since my employer sells facial recognition systems, secure documents, and all sorts of things that are controversial to some.)

Anyway, back to the ITIF. The organization documents something that it refers to as the "privacy panic cycle":

If you download the ITIF's PDF document from the link, you can read the story of a previous technology that caused panic up to the Presidential level.

The Kodak camera.

In 1888, George Eastman invented the Kodak camera, the original portable camera. Unlike with other cameras at the time, subjects no longer had to maintain a pose for upwards of one minute. This small, handheld contraption cost $25, a large amount of money at that time, but still less than the cost of the older wet-plate cameras. It offered simplicity and reliability....

In the summer of 1888, one newspaper, the Hartford Courant, wrote the following: “Beware the Kodak. The sedate citizen can't indulge in any hilariousness without the risk of being caught in the act and having his photograph passed around among his Sunday school children.”...

Privacy fundamentalists, buoyed by newspapers of the day, built up the idea of the “Kodak fi end,” a person who took unflattering pictures or pictures without permission. The Hawaiian Gazette described the Kodak end this way:

“Have you seen the Kodak end? Well, he has seen you. He caught your expression yesterday while you were in recently talking at the Post Office. He has taken you at a disadvantage and transfixed your uncouth position and passed it on to be laughed at by friend and foe alike. His click is heard on every hand. He is merciless and omnipresent and has as little conscience and respect for proprieties as the verist hoodlum. What with Kodak fiends and phonographs and electric search lights, modern inventive genius is certainly doing its level best to lay us all bare to the gaze of our fellow men.”...

Even President Theodore Roosevelt upbraided this use of the technology, telling a boy who tried to take his picture during his first week in office, “You ought to be ashamed of yourself.”

The paper then talks about other new technologies that were controversial back in the day, such as transistors.

The ITIF's editorial view is that we have survived Kodak fiends, phonographs, and electric search lights - even if Kodak and phonographs themselves aren't as popular as they once were - and therefore we will survive mobile phones and supermarket loyalty programs and facial recognition and RFID tags.

I realize, of course, that there may be opposing views.

P.S. As for the 5 Point Café, its website links to its Yelp page. And if you want to see photos inside the café, just look at its Facebook feed.
blog comments powered by Disqus