Is the world of “YouTube surveillance” going too far?

News:  The NYT reports an incident involving a high school student in Ottawa who provoked her teacher to get mad, so that another student could tape it and post it on YouTube.  The school got wind of the video and asked YouTube to remove it.  YouTube complied.  According to NYT, the teacher “is a 33-year veteran who specialized in teaching students with learning disabilities. The teacher is now on voluntary sick leave, and officials at his union say that he is so embarrassed that he may never return to class.” 

Analysis:  At least from the description in the article, I think the students were wrong for what they did, especially if they wanted their teacher to get mad so they could catch it on tape.  The article suggests that the teacher was a good teacher and supported by students.  Our lives will be drastically different if everything outside of our homes can be taped on video and posted on YouTube.  Although it’s true that video can catch inappropriate behavior and comments by politicians, police officers, and washed-up actors, there’s also a negative element to making everything fair game to video.   

UPDATE:  Michael Geist, a law professor in Canada, has a thoughtful article on the issuse.  In it, he writes:  “While there are some obvious benefits that arise from the transparency and potential accountability that can come from video evidence of controversial events, the emergence of an always-on video society raises some difficult questions about the appropriate privacy-transparency balance, the ethics of posting private moments to a global audience, and the responsibility of websites that facilitate Internet video distribution.”

One Response to Is the world of “YouTube surveillance” going too far?

  1. The outcome of actions like this will ultimately be that people question the context of what they are seeing. Just as with the printed word, video carries with it some sense that what we are seeing is truth. But when someone is misquoted, or obviously taken out of context, in a print article, our first thought is usually not, “Wow, I had no idea he was so bad,” but rather, “When did he say that? What did he say before that?” or in the very least, “Why would he say that?” I think as people get more savvy to the fact that video can present a manipulation of a situation just as easily as a printed statement can, they will come to question videos such as those of these students.

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