This New Tech Will be the Final Blow to Privacy

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The in-display Camera

Tomorrow, May 26th marks a significant leap, in the current journey of Smartphones. Oppo will launch the first commercially available in-display camera [much like in the in-display fingerprint sensor]. While this will make our phones notch-less & bezel-less, something which I have desired for years, it will have significant consequences in our lives. All my life, I have been a proud tech enthusiast (geek in tech language), this makes me worried/scared/concerned.

The Bad Guys

Every technology has pros and cons. While the innovator innovates for the good of mankind, some people find their own ugly application for the tech. The in-display camera will make our devices which need a camera sleeker, smaller and more immersive. However, since we’re now surrounded by displays potentially every display in the future can be equipped with the technology. Previously we used to have two major displays in our houses, TV, and Smartphones. Today I personally have a Smartphone, Laptop, TV, iPad, SmartWatch all with displays which may one-day house cameras beneath the display. In addition to that smart home displays [like Echo Show, Google Nest Hub], Security systems, cars all have displays which become a potential candidate for the new display tech. This would be the final nail in the coffin of Privacy. Privacy is already dead, so let’s not try to pretend that this will kill privacy.

The worries

While some companies like Google have been more respectful of privacy by deciding not to put a camera in the Smart Display, others like Amazon have not [The Echo Show has a camera ]. But, my biggest worry is the advancement of Machine Learning. Apple, Amazon, Netflix, Disney are the biggest names in the entertainment content creation space which is a multi-billion dollar industry. Imagine tomorrow Amazon decides to subsidize a TV manufacturer/or launches its own TV with an in-display camera that tracks every facial reaction when watching a show on Prime Video. With millions of facial reactions and Machine Learning, it will be possible to build a model that can with sufficient accuracy predict the reaction to an unreleased show/movie based on the captured data. While privacy concerns will arise, ultimately the cheap subsidized TV will make sense. This can be any corporation and not necessarily Amazon.

Another big concern will be the displays in public places. Since malls, stores, public transport all have CCTV cameras things may not have an ugly impact here. The real impact will be in vulnerable places like hotel rooms, trial rooms, massage parlors, public toilets, etc. where we take the presence of a display as non-threatening.

Once this tech rolls out in phones, what will stop manufacturers from putting a camera beneath other displays we are surrounded. You might decide against having such devices in your homes. But in future will you trust the TV again in a hotel room, salon, or any other place where there is a display? I don’t think so. This is like black-mirror coming becoming true, which is scary at least.

About me - My name is Jnanadarshan (Pronounced Gyana-Darshan) Nayak and I’m working at TATA Consultancy Services as a Strategy Consultant. I have Majored in MBA-Marketing from Xavier Institute of Management, Bhubaneswar in 2017.

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Author — Jnanadarshan Nayak

LinkedIn — Jnanadarshan Nayak