Okay. My continued obsession with our erosion of privacy is beginning to verge on the maniacal. While this is a broad topic, I try and stay on top of not just current issues, but looming ones as well. It is for this reason that the announcement that San Francisco-based startup Koozoo announced a seed funding round of $2.5 million, is one to ponder.
Never heard of Koozoo? Neither had I until this announcement. In a nutshell, the company wants to realize its vision of a world where crowdsourced, 24/7/365 mobile video, “Let’s you see and share live views of places you care about.” The way in which it will do so is through its platform that asks users to aim their old smartphones out the window and push the video feed out to anyone who wants to watch.
Led by New Enterprise Associates and Tugboat Ventures, this $2.5-million round of seed funding also includes Salesforce cofounder Dave Moellenhoff and TMG Partners CEO, Michael Covarrubias. It will be used to help Koozoo hire engineers to fulfill its dream.
Let’s be careful out there
I read with more than passing interest that a Tech Crunch item on this Koozoo cofounder and CEO Drew Sechrist explained how Koozoo is taking steps to minimize what the author called the “creep factor.”
“Koozoo is for public places only, so private spaces or inappropriate content will be curated out of the system…And we have a curation system that handles that. That’s the quick and dirty answer to it, the longer answer is that there will be grey areas of what’s appropriate content and what’s not, and we are building an advisory board of some of the world’s leading experts at the intersection of privacy and computer science, and we’ll be looking to those guys to advise us on those grey areas.”
Call me paranoid, but this does not sound terribly reassuring. Are the world’s leading experts going to spend sleepless hours looking at every video? We all are well aware of the challenges of getting offending content off of websites, blogs, YouTube (News - Alert) videos, social networking posts of all kinds, etc. We also know, despite statements and policies to the contrary that once on the Internet things never die.
This little thing known as sharing makes death of content impossible.
The article waxes almost poetically about the possibilities Koozoo could exploit. These are cited as, “Live views of neighborhoods, streets and pubic venues would give Koozoo users access to a wealth of real-time information, including what the actual weather is like on the street, what the situation is like on the ground in a country experiencing political unrest, or how long they can expect to wait at that new restaurant nearby that doesn’t accept reservations.”
It goes on to again quote Seachrist as to why I need real-time video of the places I go, the people I may meet and the things I wish to do. What it does not go into other than this being creepy, which it is, are a myriad of issues that this raises. For example:
- What about legal liability? Invasion of privacy when you are videoing something or someone without their permission is non-trivial, as happened with the now infamous case at Rutgers University where a young man committed suicide after a video made by his roommate of a homosexual affair went viral. A good plaintiff attorney is going to go after the videographer and Koozoo.
- What about the filming of a crime?
- Who is going to want to use an old smartphone for this purpose? It means another device on a data plan, lots of usage fees and the need to stay plugged in.
- Who really wants this world without privacy? I understand the need for video surveillance for public safety concerns, but constant surveillance of “E”verything goes beyond creepy. The benefits Seachrist enumerates are nice, but such information in the hands of bad actors, and I might even include advertisers on that list, makes this more than just a voyeur’s delight. The unintended consequences are huge.
- What does the business model look like? Are they going to pay me for my video?
Feel free to add your own thoughts to the above since the list is very long.
All of this needs to be thoroughly thought through. After all this goes way beyond the recent patent filing by Verizon (News - Alert) regarding the capability to watch us while we watch television.
Koozoo for the moment is sticking to its home turf where it is conducting a closed beta. In fact, live in San Francisco if you’d like to participate you can go to the company’s website and sign up. The goal is to launch publicly in San Francisco in early 2013, and then expand.
In closing I would be remiss if I did not comment on article author Darrel Etherington’s last argument that: “Sci-fi movies often envisioned a future where much of the public world is monitored on video, but Koozoo offers up the possibility that individuals and their devices fuel that future, rather than governments.” It is hard to understand why that is necessarily a good thing. However, I must note that I did not understand why I would want to put what used to be called a diary on the web, nor why I needed to spend my valuable time Tweeting to the world what I was up to and/or thinking seemingly every moment of every day.
It is entirely possible that this is just one of those inevitable changes we will all look back on in a few years and go, “of course! Why didn’t I think of that?” At that point Seachrist and crew could be multi-millionaires if Facebook, Google, Twitter (News - Alert), et al, decide to buy them rather than bury them on their own. I hope not. We shall see. Better yet maybe we won’t see.
Edited by Braden Becker