Watch Your Mouth! The Age Of Personal Black Box Is Already Here

(A flight data recorder and a cockpit voice recorder installed on their mounting trays in the rear fuselage of an aircraft. Image from YSSYguy/Wikipedia)

Everytime a plane crashed, it ended up in few small pieces. But two equipments which supposedly can stand a high G-force of impact, survived to tell the story of what, how and why a that particular plane crashed. Yes, there are other source of data available to help identify few important events in proving an aviation disaster (like ACARS data in the case of MH370) but flight data recorder (FDR) and cockpit voice recorder (CVR) are still two most important source of data in order to investigate the reasons of the tragedy, and therefore trying to ensure it won’t happen again.

In other words, its usefulness derived from its ability to record and stored important data so that it can be interpreted accurately and identifying the real cause (or culprit) of how and why a giant flying metal fell in the first place.

(Event Data Recorder. Image from Aronberg & Associates)

Recording and storing a data is clearly no longer belongs to an airborne transportation vehicles. Even ground vehicles like a a commercial trucks and recent cars already have its own black box (called EDR or Event Data Recorder) where it can collect variables and information like speed before the accident, whether the airbags are deployed, whether seatbelts were worn, whether the brakes are applied and so on and so forth.

And it doesn’t stop there.

Civil enforcers in some countries are already using some sort of body-worn cameras either as part of law enforcement or public accountability. It’s useful not only to prevent a police misconduct but also theoretically to record an interaction between law enforcement personnel and the public.

Yes, it may bring bring an issue of First (freedom of speech) and/or Fourth (unreasonable searches) Amendment in United States or something similar in other countries especially when it involves a technology like facial  recognition, GPS tracking and voice-or-motion-initiated activities (like when a police draw their gun from its holster) where the body-cam can record not only a video and audio but also the location of the ‘offender’ without their consent. But at least it gave some perspective about what happened (and the video of it) with the intention that the enforcer personnel is trying to do their job rather than some misconduct.

The public (a.k.a the rest of us) can scream all we want, but one way or another we already have our own ‘personal body-cam’ since the last decade.

Yes, our own smartphone. And it just a a beginning.


Bringing A (Voice) Recorder Into A Meeting Room


Bringing a voice recorder during an interview or meeting wasn’t something new. How many times we have seen a press statement session filled with journalists and reporters holding on to their voice recorders to get the actual words or statements from our politicians, celebrities and other public figures. 

And to a lesser extent, how many of us have actually brought their voice recorder (app-based or dedicated device) to a meeting, for a sake of reducing misunderstanding and uncertainties? I know I did for several times. No, it’s not about trying to blackmail anyone but rather I want to make sure the actual words, meaning and scope of the conversation won’t be misunderstood. Nobody wants to make mistake especially when a contract worth hundred of millions involved.

Yes, our meeting’s potential dispute or misunderstanding may not reached a civil enforcement dispute like between a public and a police,  but nevertheless it’s important for average people to ensure the actual words being spoken and agreed upon rather than waiting for an official press release or minutes of meeting which may took at least a week for it to be released.

Or in more extreme case, it’s about proving your innocence or point. Remember Omarosa and her taped conversation during her time in White House? Legality of such action aside, if that could happen at the highest level of administration, what’s the guarantee that it wouldn’t happen at any companies’ meeting room, or even at water cooler station? Yes, there are laws regarding whether or not it’s legal to record a conversation without a consent of everyone else in the room in some states. But if doesn’t stop Omarosa, then clearly it won’t stop anyone else from doing it.

(Omarosa Manigault Newman. Image from Gage Skidmore/Wikipedia)

Yes, Omarosa was wrong by taping a highly classified conversation especially if it is related to national security, but what about us, the public who otherwise may record less-than-serious ‘offence’ that didn’t involved such things? What about if you’re insulted by a racist or sexist co-workers? Or outright accusations that you’ve made a company loss a few million dollars without any concrete evidence? Where’s the evidence to support your claim that you’ve been accused doing such things during private conversation inside a private room?

And don’t try to be surprised like this kind of trend will be faded soon. In fact, with plenty kind of smart devices going to market soon, even the one which could be enabled by voice, it’s a matter of time before each of us have our own blackbox. We already have smartphones (and apps) that can record our daily lives and even livestream it on social media, so it’s a matter of time before we half-way biohack our own body with devices and inadvertently turned it into personal live recorder.


Personal Blackbox Could Be Available For Public Soon


Personal body cam for public wasn’t a new concept or product altogether. A company like WOLFCOM Venture already sold a body cam that can also become your car camera or a bike camera. What started as a company supplying a body cam for law enforcement, they have ventured out (pun intended) to sell similar product to the masses. Since it can be attached to your jacket or shirt, you don’t need to take it out for you to start recording something, unlike the smartphones.

And with voice-recognition technology has started to creep into our lives more and more, it’s no longer an issue of when it will be embedded into body cam so it can be activated by voice rather than pushing a button or based on motion. As the price and accessibility of cloud storage is getting lower and easier every year, the issue of storing the recorded conversation should be no longer a concern for us.

And once it become a trend or goes mainstream, we need to decide who and on what occasion that the recordings can be accessed and become an evidence in the court? In what occasion that it’s illegal for law enforcement to demand access to it? Should it become main evidence if things gone south during internal investigations in any company or organisations?

Yes, a lot of questions need to be answered once this personal blackbox becomes a mainstream. Not to mention that any conversation inside a meeting or pantry room would become a highly boring and bland conversation as everyone would be vigilant enough not to say something stupid or potentially insulting or assaulting anyone. Will an organisations start to write specific code of conduct related to body cam inside a meeting room?

Don’t be surprised if one day even a boring meeting must be attended by an attorney, for the sake of preventing lawsuits.


Upholding Law vs Seeking Justice


But what about the law?

Yes,  there are laws in several states like New York and Texas that allows ‘one-party consent’ where only one party (or person) needs to be aware of the recording while in states like California requires ‘all-party consent’ where everyone should be aware of and agreed that the conversation will be recorded.

But once such action of recording daily lives, even during meetings goes mainstream, will everyone still becomes a law-abiding citizen and follow the law like mentioned above (i.e one-party consent vs two-part consent)?

I doubt so.

I always believe that the law, however seem less smart it may seem, has a good intention of ensuring a law-abiding public, punishing bad behaviour (and bad actor) and delivering justice to the innocent. But what if the injustice or assault happens in the state where there’s no clause for the wronged to show the evidence that mistreatment took place? Yes, some people obey the law to bits, but not everyone could stand a mistreatment from their superiors or colleagues. By recording such behaviour to prove their innocence, they may have to break the law that was intended to protect the public in the first place. It’s not inconceivable that some are willing to go whatever end to seek redress and prove that they are on the right side.

The law is intended to deliver justice, but what might happen if the law failed to deliver it because our smart devices can do it better? Will we resort to court of public opinion and social media instead?

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