This morning, at the pool, I had an encounter with a woman I’ll call “the GoPro Lady.” She got under my skin and got me thinking about the ethics of video, given the ubiquitousness of smart phone cameras and the instrumentation of every damn thing. So, I’m going to put this dilemma to you, dear blog readers, to see what you think. But first, let me tell you the story…
The pool I swim at most mornings is frequented by a group of die hard swimmers of varying abilities. I call them “die hard” because you have to be pretty hard core if you’re going to get up every day (or nearly every day) except Sundays and holidays, to congregate outside the locked gate of the *outdoor* high school pool, and stand in line waiting for it to open at 5:30am. Now, this is California, but it still gets a little brisk on winter mornings. Most (sane) people are snuggled up in bed at 5:30am when it’s dark and 40 degrees (F) outside.
I’ve been swimming at this pool for about two years. At this point, I recognize most of the regulars. We don’t talk much. There is some chatter while waiting for the career lifeguard to arrive in the morning and unlock the facilities. But once we pass through the sign-in queue, the talking pretty much ends as we each make a bee-line to our favorite lane to stake out our territory. After that, everyone does their thing, eventually packing it in and heading home, pumped and ready to do it again tomorrow.
I’ve seen GoPro Lady once before. She creeped me out with her stealthy little video camera then, but I wasn’t sharing a lane with her. So, I didn’t make a big deal about it. This morning, however, she got in my lane. I was already most of the way through my warm-up when she arrived, and barely looked up when she appeared at the end of the lane. We exchanged a brief greeting and I acknowledged that she was planning to split the lane with me. Then I pushed off into my next set, as you do. No big deal.
I didn’t even see her face, let alone recognize her, at that point. Then I pretty much ignored her while I swam my various sets, single-mindedly focused on the workout I’d planned and prepping for the swim meet I have on Saturday. So, I didn’t notice the camera pointed on me the whole time.
As the seven o’clock pool-closing hour ticked closer, the pool started to clear out. A lane opened up next to us and she decided to slide over and take her own lane. Fine by me. I finished my second-to-last set and paused to drink some water and put my fins on for my kick set. That’s when I finally noticed the camera and realized I’d been sharing a lane with the GoPro lady.
She had moved the camera, with her, to the lane next to mine. But, instead of it pointing straight down the lane as one might expect, it was slightly angled… toward me. WTF. I grumbled, but she was swimming. So, I grabbed my kick board and began kicking down the lane, away from the camera. I went up and back several times, frowning at the camera every time I approached it, until finally, on one of my last lengths, I slowly pivoted my left hand until my fingers were no longer wrapped around the end of the kick board and my middle finger was extended and almost parallel with the front of the board.
Yep. I flipped off the GoPro. So mature. I know. Then I strategically placed my kick board back on the deck so that it was slightly obstructing the camera’s view of my lane. GoPro Lady didn’t say anything. She eventually repositioned the camera so it was pointed down her lane. But, when I was getting out of the pool, I noticed she had repositioned it, yet again. This time it was angled sharply, pointing towards a young, fit gentleman a few lanes over. Uncool, GoPro Lady.
So, here’s the thing… I don’t think there is any law or rule or anything that says she can’t video at the pool. But, what’s the ethical thing to do here? Let’s say I give her the benefit of the doubt and assume she just wants to film her stroke so that she can make improvements, and maybe she wants to film others, people who have good technique, so that she can see what they’re doing to help her improve. But, why not just *ask* first?
I mean, I don’t know what she’s going to do with that video. Maybe she’s going to just keep it for her own personal use (still potentially creepy). But what if she is putting that out on the internet. What if she’s making and selling training videos? Regardless of the purpose, shouldn’t you be getting the permission of the people you’re filming? Or is everything just fair game now because cameras are everywhere?
And here is my dilemma. When cameras are everywhere, what right do you have to opt out of being filmed? What responsibility does the everyman videographer have to get consent from the “innocent bystanders”? I don’t have answers for these questions. I hate that I feel all “get off my lawn” about this topic, but does no one care about privacy anymore?
I feel a tiny bit bad that I flipped off her GoPro. And, if I see her at the pool again, I’m planning on taking a more polite and direct approach. But I’m not a fan of videos without consent. If that makes me a curmudgeon… oh well. At least I’m a fit curmudgeon.