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Bant Breen

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The Revealing Conference Call

Posted: 06/26/11 04:00 PM ET

Today we live in an always-on world of networked PC's and mobiles. As these digitally connected devices continue to add more cameras it is important to remember that we live in an always-seen age as well.

Last summer I arrived at my in-laws farmhouse for a vacation. But before my holiday could begin I had one last web conference call presentation with several my colleagues that needed to be attended. I set up my computer and logged into the conference call. The meeting was going to start in about 15 minutes so at the urging of my wife and kids I ran outside and jumped into the pool to cool down and wash the long trip and my worries away. I was having a great time playing with my kids in the water and was shifting into rest and relaxation mode when I remembered about the conference call. I jumped out of the pool and ran back to the house to join the meeting.

I sat there in the dark bedroom as my colleagues made presentations about their monthly activities followed by discussion. Finally my name was called and I was asked to speak. My presentation appeared on the screen and in a professional voice I started outlining our corporate progress on various initiatives. My associates were strangely silent as I presented.

Finally one of my coworkers from England piped up, "Uh, mate, uh, are you naked?" This was followed by several other affirmative murmurs and chortles. I had not put on a shirt after being in the pool, did not realize the webcam was on and appeared to the global conference call as if I was sitting there au naturale. My colleagues had a field day with this gaffe and I still receive e-mail invitations to conference calls with the line at the end, "Remember to wear a shirt."

There are numerous examples of our connected video cameras capturing the good, bad, funny and ugly. Earlier this year, a Wyoming couple accused a national rent-to-own chain of spying on them at home using their rented computer's webcam without their knowledge. ‬Thousands of people followed Joshua Kaufman's saga in Oakland as he took pictures of the thief that had stolen his MacBook from his Oakland apartment in March until the criminal was apprehended.

I cannot see the usage of connected video abating. I am a heavy user of virtual meeting technologies and love the ability to share my screen and work with collaborators all over the world. Certainly there are significant privacy concerns and limitations will need to be established. Just remember, if there is a connected camera on your computer or mobile, it is advised to wear a shirt to the virtual meeting.

 

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