Why Not Record Everything, All the Time?

New consumer gadgets let us record pictures, sounds and videos constantly. Is this good or bad?


How to Help Your Business Become an AI Early Adopter

Posted August 28, 2013

Mike Elgan

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Everyone was stunned by the scale of the NSA's data capture in the wake of the Edward Snowden revelations. Wait, you mean they're planning to keep a copy of all communication?


In truth, the NSA is just ahead of the curve. Pretty soon, anyone who wants to will be able to cheaply and easily record audio, video and other things -- everything. All the time.

I’ll tell you why I think such technologies might do more good than harm at the end of this column. But first, let’s look at the shiny new gadgets.


Dashcams, which are cameras designed to record from a car dashboard and which are most heavily used in Russia, have long used a record-and-purge function. They record constantly while in the car and capture clips only when a button is pressed or, in the case of the better products, when the car gets into an accident.

YouTube is packed with dashcam video. Because they're always running, they've captured everything from meteors to plane crashes.

Wearable Computing Gadgets

A $99 wristwatch gadget called Kapture records audio all the time. But it also constantly deletes what it has recorded; after one minute, it deletes what it recorded.

But if you press the button on the watch, it retains the previous 60 seconds. So if you press the button 10 times during the day, you'll end up with that 10 minutes of sound -- a greatest hits, if you will. Kapture has already raised $300,000, and will launch a new Kickstarter campaign Sept. 3 to raise an additional $150,000.

Smartphone Apps

A free iPhone app called Heard does what the Kapture watch does. It records everything and constantly for as long as the app is running. After five minutes, it dumps what it recorded -- unless you press the button to save it. (A $1.99 version lets you capture longer recording times.)

One obvious way to use Heard would be to take an old iPhone you don't use any more, plug it in, turn the Auto-Lock setting to "Never," and leave Heard running on your desk. When a conversation happens you want to keep, reach over a press the Heard button.

Livelogging Cameras

When I started writing about lifelogging photography a few years ago, it was theoretical category. Since then, actual consumer-market cameras designed to constantly take pictures all day, every day have come on the market.

A new $49 camera called MeCam pins to your shirt. It will shoot video constantly for 80 minutes or so when the battery runs out. During this time, you can press a button to capture a 5 megapixel still photo. It even shoots in the dark using LED infrared lights and also captures audio.

Another wearable camera called Memoto has better features for lifelogging. It has no buttons. It starts taking one 5-megapixel picture every 30 seconds when you clip it on, and stops when you set it down. Pictures are uploaded to Memoto's cloud service. Photos are geo-tagged and time-tagged, and Memoto's apps organize pictures into discreet events, so you can browse through pictures with a little guidance.

The Memoto costs $279 and comes with a free year of cloud service. After that, the cloud service costs $9 per month. The Memoto should ship soon.

The Autographerf from OMG Life is a higher-end lifelogging camera available now, but only in Europe. The $615 gadget hangs around your neck or clips to a belt or other article of clothing, and it will take constant pictures at a user-selectable rate.

The pictures are 5 megapixels and fish-eye looking -- the camera has a 136-degree field of view. Included software can place your pictures on a map, so you can leave behind a trail of pictures. You can view and share photos on the company's smartphone app, to which the device connects via Bluetooth. The Autographer does not record sound.

Action Cams

Cameras designed for extreme sports are getting into the act of recording everything, too.

The Looxie camera (which is designed to attach to sunglasses, baseball caps, a shoulder-mount or helmet) has a mode called LooxieMoments, which continuously records. By pressing a button, the previous 30 seconds is captured and added to a half-hour MP4 clip of all your 30-second clips spliced together.

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Tags: privacy, Gadgets, records retention, Security Intelligence

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