Watch CBSN Live

Be Your Own Big Brother

Privacy advocates object to the fact that security cameras photograph us many, many times every day. They aren't comfortable with Big Brother constantly watching and taking our pictures. Well, now technology has come up with a way for you to be your own Big Brother. As with many "advances" in science, my reaction is: Just because we can do it, doesn't mean we should.

New video cameras and technology make the "nanny camera" seem as antiquated as the horse and buggy — or that computer you bought two years ago. These devices allow you to monitor what's going on in your home when you're not at home. You can see your bedroom, the living room, or your kid's room on your computer at work. Or if you're on vacation, you can see what the house sitter is up to from the laptop in your hotel room.

Prices range from about $100 to $1,300, depending on picture quality and options. Linksys, Panasonic, and D-Link are among the companies that make these things.

Workers already spend huge portions of their day at the office, goofing around on their computers. They check their stocks, watch porn, send e-mails to friends, play fantasy sports and read columns like this one. If this home surveillance thing catches on, can you imagine how much more time will be wasted at work, with people watching their empty houses?

Some of the more sophisticated setups allow you to zoom and pan so you can follow people as they walk around the house. Others have motion detectors that alert you when someone has walked into the house or into a room. Do you really want to get an alert every time someone in your house walks into the bathroom?

One of the most unfortunate aspects of this technology is that you're not limited to watching your house from your computer. You can watch it from any device that gets the Internet. You guessed it. That means that ubiquitous cell phone users will now be able to see what's going on in their homes by looking at the little screen on their cell phones. It's bad enough that we all have to suffer through hearing those annoying rings, people talking into their cell phones as if we don't exist, and watching them take pictures of each other with their phones. Now we're going to be sitting next to them in a restaurant, as they watch their kid do their homework. And of course this technology represents a giant step forward in the possibilities of phone sex.

Obviously, you also can see if an intruder has come into your house, and then call the police. I'm afraid that people will become so bored watching their empty houses, that they'll start hoping that an intruder will come in. They'll want to see some "action."

Of course, the makers of these devices would say that you don't have to monitor your house constantly. You can just check in on it every once in a while. Who are they kidding? If you buy one of these things, how are you going to resist the temptation to over-use it? Think of how often you check your e-mail or your phone messages when you're away from home.

Some people feel that this device will give them peace of mind when they're on vacation. I don't know about that. When I'm on vacation, the last thing I want to think about is what's going on in my house. Call it denial, but I don't particularly want to know how late my kids are sleeping when I'm on vacation. Or if it's a family trip, I'm not really interested in how often the dog sitter takes Rascal for a walk. I can imagine people going to Paris, then coming home and having their friends ask them about their trip. "Did you see the Eiffel Tower? Did you see the new exhibit at the Louvre? Did you see the Seine at sunset?" "No, but we saw our empty living room, we noticed some dust in our den, and we watched our plants being watered." Doesn't sound like a fun trip to me.

Lloyd Garver writes a weekly column for He has written for many television shows, ranging from "Sesame Street" to "Family Ties" to "Frasier." He has also read many books, some of them in hardcover.

By Lloyd Garver

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue