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OTOH Massive cuts to govt spending would solve the privacy issue because there would be no NSA or CIA to spy on you any more...

Votes + Comments
Nice segue to get back on topic.
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Maybe we should just run all the bills/laws that congress and the pres have passed over the past 200+ years through a paper shredder and start all over again with the basics of what is in the US Constitution.

That would mean: No social security, No Medicare, No pensions, No unemployment income, No welfare, No disability insurance, No department of defense, No Medicaid, No Health and Human services, and No spending on Transportation..

YES YES YES

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AD can I put you down as pro-nuclear disarmament then?

PS you do realize doing such a thing would result in complete social breakdown as all the people unable to survive without government benefits resort to crime (which would no longer be a crime as the criminal code is not in the consitution). Either that or a feudal system where the rich live in gate communities (aka castles) with their private guards and the rest fend for themselves - like Detroit only much faster and with no where for the people to leave to...

Edited by Agilemind

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I don't understand the controversy over privacy. We're all human and, for that matter, only human. There's nothing mysterious, complicated or difficult to understand about human beings. A great deal of our attention and energy is focused on our gonads because that's how we're made. We're hardwired for that and we get excited about it. Where's the need for privacy in that? The guy who wants to sell you the secret to getting rich isn't rich yet, he's just hoping to get that way by selling you the secret (which, as it turns out, isn't really a secret). Where's the need for privacy in that? The era of proprietary information is ended. If your wealth is built on the sanctity of your information you're living in a house of straw and the wolves (yes, plural) are here now. It's all well and good to lament and/or rant about the loss of privacy but you need to understand that you're furiously pedalling a bicycle which has lost it's chain.

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Mike 2000 17: Thanks for the article. A great (though very complicated) question.

Boy! I want to respond to this but I can't seem to do it in less than 5 pages. Actually 2 different 5 pagers.

Steven Covey: In an honest society you need no laws. In a dishonest society laws do no good.

Whose honesty are we playing with? The "honesty" of those who are collecting data is trying to make a living. That is a goal that we all share. Actually we want them to be successful because it means new industries and new jobs. We may not like their methods, but we can't criticize their objective.
On the other hand the Internet is starting to feel like a jungle where you have to watch every step, or else. But hasn't it been that way for a long time? You know, like entering your credit card number was a sure path to identity theft, and so on.

On the lighter side:
With that attitude I might as well volunteer for the organic battery of the Matrix.

I just want an opt-out button and not an ultimatium: let us collect your data or go away!

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A great deal of our attention and energy is focused on our gonads because that's how we're made

One problem is when too much of the government's attention and energy is focused on our gonads, such as when certain pols want to outlaw what consenting adults do with them. One of our (Canadian) prime ministers once said "The state has no business in the bedrooms of the nation".

Actually we want them to be successful because it means new industries and new jobs.

I don't see how you draw that conclusion.

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I don't see how you draw that conclusion.

No short answer on this.
Offered with the caveats that I am speaking for the US and understanding I am not an economist. This stuff is just a part of my life and an interest to me.
The years 1998 through 2000 were the most successful years, financially, in US history. We enjoyed deficit reduction and three consecutive years of surplus of tax over annual expense. Hiring was up, employment was down. The future looked promising.
It happens that these same years coincide with the Internet bubble / Boom.
Long to short there was a lot of money floating around and it was being used for big ticket items such as houses SUVs vacations and more. That meant growth appeared to be broad based growth.
Of course a large portion of the gain was speculation and the crash, starting in 2000 took a great deal of the new found wealth back.
Still what the bubble proved was the earning potential of Internet technologies. Internet companies Yahoo, ebay, Cisco and the expansion of Microsoft and Apple, as well as a host of others, established Internet ventures as ligitamate business. Internet companies, and providing a means of accessing internet businesses, have played a major role in business start up and job creation over recent years. This article puts some of that in perspective.
Someone else could probably explain why companies are willing to invest in cloud computing, but I'm pretty sure it has to do with collecting large amounts of data to some profitable end. And that brings us back to the issues of privacy versus economy.

It seems to me that having a place to put stuff encourages the accumulation of stuff. Data that was too expensive to retain only a decade ago is now relatively inexpensive.

Profitable ends almost always means job creation and an economy that moves people from unemployment to tax payers. Lots of medium income taxpayers will (and did in the late 1990s) out weigh help from the 1%. Hence, success in information gathering leads, in ways that I do not yet understand, to a better economy, or so it would seem.

Yes, we hope for their success because it benefits us all. We just hope the personal costs are not too high.

But these folks know a lot more about all this than I.

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@Klahr_R:

If I understand you correctly, you are saying that people's private information (or more generally, all information) is the new hot commodity on the market, and like any hot commodity it will spurr an economy around it. I certainly agree that this is a fact, I can't say that I'm happy with that reality though.

Information (private or otherwise) has always been a "hot commodity", whether it takes the form of knowing before anyone else that Napoleon fell at Waterloo, or doing insider trading, or doing corporate espionage. But the game has changed now because the means by which one can gather, store, and analyse information at relatively low cost has sky-rocketed. Effectively, as you say, this has created a new economy of its own, i.e., a commodity's market. Whoever has the most means of collecting / storing / analysing information holds the bigger end of the stick. This is certainly frightning to me.

On humanist grounds, I have a problem with the idea of turning something that is essential to any person into a commodity that is open for trade. I equate this to the whole business of privatizing water supplies by simply stating that water is a commercial commodity like any other, and thus, should be owned and distributed with a price-tag. Regardless of the jobs or economy that this can "create" (in fact, it does not), the truth is, it puts a price-tag on people's lives, i.e., if you are not "worth" the air you breath, you should be left to die. Privacy is essential to the mental well-being of any person, like the air they breath or the water they drink, putting a price-tag on it is as good as a death sentence.

If you take a Marxist perspective on this matter, it is clear that this new "commodity", being the private information gathered about an individual, is not wealth that has been created, it is wealth that is been robbed from the individual himself. What I do in my private life is my own business, I may not put a price-tag on the full-disclosure of that information, but I certainly guard it (or parts of it) and only willingly disclose parts of it to others. In other words, the sum of the information (and everything you could infer from it) about me (my private life) is a commodity that I control and own. Having "Turing Era" systems to gather / store / analyse private information simply robs individuals of the control and ownership of this commodity, and turns a profit with it (money and/or power) at the expense of the individuals. So, seeing this as some kind of new market or commodity is not telling the full story.

This is like people who claim that extracting ore from the ground is a means to create wealth (in the GDP-sense, which is an absurd metric to use), which are often mining companies, of course. In reality, it is mostly a form of liquidation of real assets, with some creation of wealth in the form of the work that goes into to refining the ore.

And finally, you seem to understand the whole concept of economic crashes being caused by bursting speculative bubbles. Most commodities that are the subject of a significant amount of trade around the world are subject to an overwhelming amount of speculation, usually dwarfing any real value behind the commodity itself. Now, this is not entirely a bad thing, because there are forms of "safe" speculation, like, for example, gold, whose value is largely due to speculation, that is, speculation about the likelihood of investors wanting to take refuge in a safe commodity, gold being the favorite for most. Oil is speculated upon in a very similar way (with a bit more real-value behind it, of course, because it actually serves a useful purpose). But most other commodities are much more volatile. And by and large, economies that are built around a volatile commodities trading market that is based largely on speculative valuations are exactly what we call a "bubble". Now, placing your bets on rescuing / boasting the economy by riding the inflationary wave of yet another speculative bubble, is not what I would call a "wise" move. As I would say, when your house just crumbled to the ground, it is probably a good time to build a stronger foundation.

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Mike 2000 17
Well said. I absolutely agree.
As with too many things in our world we only have the control of using or not using, and sometimes the ability to push back.
In double checking my comments I ran across an article saying NetFlix is one of the most successful users of cloud technology in the world. This weekend they started a "personal profile" system to determine exactly who is watching what. Now they have not only the person paying the bill, but family, roommates et al for gathering metrics. They say it is a service that "We" have been asking for!

I pushed back. I called three times.
I was told you only have to click once. Yes, per visit.
I was told it was just a click through but it clearly does some computations before getting to my queue (about 6 second).
I was told that I can't go on the Internet with out leaving a foot print.
I was told this is a big plus for families who want to maintain parental controls.
I was told to check their TOS privacy agrement.

I told them I want an opt-out button. They said they will take it under consideration.
If I don't get my opt-out button then I'll have a choice to make.

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One of our (Canadian) prime ministers once said "The state has no business in the bedrooms of the nation"

and then went on to regulate the size of beds, the age of consent, gay marriage, marriage to foreigners, the minimum size of windows for bedrooms, allowed materials for blankets, and come what may.
After all, he was a politician...

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Privacy is essential to the mental well-being of any person, like the air they breath or the water they drink, putting a price-tag on it is as good as a death sentence.

Is that based on evidence or opinion, for it wasn't that long ago that the Romans had public bathhouses and communal toilets. People still willingly stay in Hostels despite the lack of privacy and many Universities and boarding schools have shared dorm rooms. There are many apartment buildings where the walls are so thin you can hear everything your neighbour does. Many aboriginal societies had/have very little in the way of privacy.

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Spend one day in a military bootcamp and you will see privacy in action -- there ain't none. Everything you do is in public display of other military members. People don't "need" privacy -- it's just an imaginary thing.

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Is that based on evidence or opinion

Well, I haven't really looked into any "evidence" of that. But I'm sure that any psychologist would concur.

Mostly, I based it on the long-standing tradition of human rights. The right to privacy has been explicitly stated in just about any document of that nature since the dawn of time. The US constitution, the Magna Carta, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and I believe even the Code of Hammurabi (1750 BC). I think it is a pretty unaminously recognized.

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Just because some people do not have a choice when it comes to matters of privacy does not mean that everyone should be deprived of it. That is a nonsensical argument. You might as well argue that because millions of people are starving that people don't need nutrition. It's just an imaginary thing. There are also lots of people who do not require human contact to be happy, yet forcing isolation on prisoners through extended solitary confinement is considered cruel and unusual punishment, even torture by many. I'm sure you have your "little secrets" that you would not like shared with the world. That's what privacy means - the right to decide what to share with others. If you have a character flaw or a physical defect that you would like to keep to yourself then you have a need for privacy. It is hardly an imaginary thing.

Many aboriginal societies had/have very little in the way of privacy.

Yes. And they also had their patterns of behaviour such that they maintained the illusion of privacy even when such was limited. Avoiding eye contact, for example, when couples were engaged in "personal matters" was considered prudent. It gave people as much privacy as was possible under the given living conditions.

minimum size of windows for bedrooms, allowed materials for blankets, and come what may.

Minimum sizes for windows and allowed materials for blankets/clothing, etc are matters of safety, not morality. Clothing and blankets made of highly flammable materials are a safety hazard. Having bedroom windows that are too small to be used as an emergency escape route are likewise a safety matter.

Edited by Reverend Jim

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I have six points that seem to keep whirling around in my head.

First: There are two fallacies, which I have noticed, in the expected value of knowing the preferences of every person on the planet. The first has been mentioned: The data doesn't indicate (for instance) who the user was, only the account that was signed in. The actual user is an unknown, unless that can be mitigated by methods such as Personal Profiles.
The second is a misuse of the “success data” touted by those who think they have the best algorithms. Google, for instance does seem to be able to nail what I am looking for by the third word of my search string.
Other providers fall back on misinterpretation, such as NetFlix suggesting that 50% to 75% of videos viewed come from what they suggest. This may well be true, however, the fallacy lies in the fact that I don't watch 50% to 75% of what NetFlix suggests. Of the hundreds of offerings I may only find 1 or 2 that I haven’t seen or is nearly suitable to my taste. This is a far cry from the image that Netflix would promote. That might just be me and my tastes.

DISCLAIMER: I love Netflix and would be lost without it. They just happen to be making news at the moment.

The question remains as to whether or not the algorithms will evolve to incorporate all variables?

Second: Is the promise of the technology attainable?
In the days before computing the task of automated robots seemed a goal too far. However, the quest has produced better memory, faster execution; artificial intelligence and better sensing devices that have filled in the gaps. So to this, given the appearent NEED, the number of entities interested, and the amount of funds available, and the quality of the skill of those working on it -- it is only a matter of time, then the refinements continue.

Third: Cultural References that describe our current world
When it comes to literary works or movies that describe what is coming, Minority Report seems to me to be closest. If not familiar with the work, the protagonist has to get new eyeballs so he won't be recognized by ubiquitous retina scans used for personalized advertising on Kiosks, but also accessed by the government when needs are justified. (Yeah, that makes me shiver too.)

Fourth: Taging on to OldDragon’s comment:
As for OldDragon's suggestion about boot camp, when boot camp is past, so begins the process of rebuilding the ego that was leveled by the regimen practiced in boot camp. These regimens are aimed at the need to level the egos of those involved (and that means putting people in the same uniform, shaving heads, sharing in cleaning duties and hand washing their own clothes). Lodging improves with rank/rate/what ever they call it these days. Should we not draw from this, as proof, that removing one’s privacy is a dehumanizing act and restoring that privacy is a privilege of rank?
Or does it suggest that many of us have inflated egos and could use some leveling?

Which ever may be true, the desire for privacy is still there and catered to by the degree possible.
Even on a submarine, everyone seems to find “Their private spot” where, though still in the crowd, they can have a place to read, reflect and journal, which suggests that Privacy is a state of mind. (?)

Fifth: Why are we drawn to the need for privacy? Is the Original Sin story the best we can do--its all driven by guilt?)

I keep thinking about the coyote that lives in the drain culvert up the road. Is it privacy or safety that drives him in there? Or is one the same as the other?

Sixth: What do we do about those who use their privacy to plot mayhem and destruction, as the coyote has served on the local turkey population?

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Should we not draw from this, as proof, that removing one’s privacy is a dehumanizing act and restoring that privacy is a privilege of rank?
Or does it suggest that many of us have inflated egos and could use some leveling?

both.
And that governments have every intent, and ever more the means, on dehumanising their constituents in order to perpetuate their own power.

Sixth: What do we do about those who use their privacy to plot mayhem and destruction, as the coyote has served on the local turkey population?

There is a price to be paid for liberty, and that's being at some risk from the coyotes. I'd take that risk over being a slave.
Of course that risk should be mitigated by giving people the means to defend themselves, shoot the coyote, without being hit by lawsuits from environmentalists thinking coyotes have more right to live thn turkeys or humans.

Edited by jwenting

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And that governments have every intent, and ever more the means, on dehumanising their constituents in order to perpetuate their own power.

Could not the same be said of the companies who are the ones actually collecting the data? Is the problem that anyone posesses the information or do you only care that the government has access to it?

Of course that risk should be mitigated by giving people the means to defend themselves, shoot the coyote, without being hit by lawsuits from environmentalists thinking coyotes have more right to live thn turkeys or humans.

Except that for every real coyote shot how many people's innocent pet dogs will be mistaken for coyotes and shot as well?

Edited by Agilemind

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Except that for every real coyote shot how many people's innocent pet dogs will be mistaken for coyotes and shot as well?

From the reality in places where people do have the right to defend themselves, hardly any at all. Certainly far fewer than get arrested and put in prison on false accusations, far fewer than get harmed by the coyotes in society in places where the sheep don't have claws.

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Klahr_R: interesting ideas but (there is always a but)
1) it is possible to identify people from their keyboard style - it was considered as a replacement for passwords at one of my old jobs so it is possible that the entire world of data will include keyboarding styles which will be the interwebs version of fingerprints. Add the ubiquity of built-in cameras (I remember a recent phone commercial that showed the movie stopping when the viewer looked away).
2) Remeber that a computer program beat Jeopardy's best.
3) Refer back to phone commercial - did you read the PK Dick story Minority Report was based on? In the movie, I found it odd that the 'minority' from the title who spent her entire life floating in a fluid was able to stand let alone walk and/or run.
4) I went through Marine Corps boot camp - there is a lot going on during recruit terrorizing. They take away everything that identifies you as an individual - cloths, hair, et c - then you are screamed at for hours on end, made to run with a full duffle; pick it up, put it down - yadda yadda yadda; once the porcess destroys your personality, it is built back up as a member of a team, taught to respond immediately to commands. Who gets to decide what personalities need to be leveled? The privacy improving with rank seems to correlate with wealth - the more wealth you have, the more property you have, the more flunkies you have to stand between you and 'the rest'.
5) I don't think I would go with the 'original sin' story as a basis for the need for privacy; I might go with this article but tl:dr - but the abstract seemed interesting.
6) Nothing; the only way to catch that one person in a million means that a million people would have to give up their freedom.

Edited by Reverend Jim: typo

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Thanks GrimJack
On
1. The concern was not just identifying the person but accurately interpreting that person's preferences much less their intentions.
2. The "Watson" that beat Jeopardy had a significant amount of overhead. It required enormous amounts of information from diverse range of sources, all of which was focused on just one question at a time. Hats off to those folks, but that technology is a long way from predicting individual behavior, much less intent. It is also far removed from the idea that because I bought one bathroom heater, I would still be in the market for another heater!?! Still, done once marks the trail.
3. Yes, always the suspension of disbelief testing the credibility of the whole. It is the framework of cheese cloth supporting the few great ideas/perspectives/possibilities (and then a miracle happens, a Larson would say).
4. I did Navy boot in San Diego. At the airport the Marine bus came first. When the sergeant screamed SEATS I thought the tires were going to burst. The obstacle course at Pendleton was just over the fence from the Navy chow hall. We'd be standing there with the August sun barely light watching those (we thought) poor guys already out there going at 100%. Sill the Marines I have known through my life are some of the finest people I have known. Hats off the them too.
5. Your article is of a reasonable high density that it will require another reading or two before I get fully in tune with it. I'll say this: The young folks (grade school and up) are hard on each other. As we age we become more sophisticated in how we protect our space. One clear method of protecting our space is maintaining secrecy about information that could be used to inflect embarrassment or loss of status whether economic or social or professional. That should be reason enough to seek privacy, even if we have first separated the need for territorial control.
6. It may be true that it costs the privacy of millions to possibly identify the one individual who intends harm on a mass scale. However, when it is someone near and dear to us who is dismembered by a senseless act of terror, is the balance not changed? Hard questions be there?
The US Constitution sets out in its preamble that its purpose is, in part, to provide for a common defense. When that defense is such a glaring failure as the many events of the last 15 years, we tend to want to know why. AncientDragon has a point about the cost benefit of the Intelligence gathering capability in this country.
I don't believe the government is the only nor even the best defense against domestic terrorism. We should not ignore the functional, working model in what the Israelis and Germans and a growing number of countries are learning: it is up to us, the citizens, to be better educated on danger signs, and better prepared to deal appropriately when those signs appear.
But, make that BUT!, that imposes on our sense of privacy as well, and might require us to impose on the privacy of others which is clearly a Faux Pas in our society.
Hard Questions. Good topic for discussion. Thanks again Mike.

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I don't believe the government is the only nor even the best defense against domestic terrorism

The Rand Corporation examined 648 terrorist groups that existed between 1968 and 2006.

43% ended because of a transition to the political process
40% ended due to infiltration my police and intelligence (non-military) services
10% ended because their goals were achieved
7% ended because of military action

An observation of note is

Against most terrorist groups, however, military force is usually too blunt an instrument. Military tools have increased in precision and lethality, especially with the growing use of precision standoff weapons and imagery to monitor terrorist movement. But even precision weapons have been of limited use against terrorist groups. The use of substantial U.S. military power against terrorist groups also runs a significant risk of turning the local population against the government by killing civilians.

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Klahr-R - Yep, I am a graduate of MCRD San Diego but I got out in 69 and even then marines were complaining that boot camp was getting to easy (this was always in comparison with 'how tough I had it'). When I was a young punk programmer, Cray was the fastest machine in the world and they timed it by adding or subtracting wire-length. When I entered a command line error, it would respond "bad card".

Oh, my point with Watson is that what it could do now shows that it can keep up. There are theories of the mind that supposes that below awareness, all of our experiences are summed into larger and larger units that include all possible responses to a situation. An example is that when a novice plays chess, he examines all the possible moves then narrows the focus to the legal moves then to moves that improve his situation; an intermediate player no longer sees illegal moves; and a master no longer see bad moves.

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It's also a matter of perception. A novice sees the chess board as a collection of individual pieces. A master sees it as strategic groups of pieces. This was indicated by an experiment where playes of various levels were asked to look at games in progress and memorize the setup. The errors made by the novice players were random, whereas when masters made errors they tended to be such that strategically the layouts were similar. In the same way, novice musicians see music as sequences of notes whereas professional musicians see it as phrases, progressions, themes, etc.

But again, we are really getting off topic.

Edited by Reverend Jim

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Er, RJ ,yeah one last comment then back on topic - I had that same study in mind along with the one I mentioned but thought it might be too much.

The issues I have with the expectation of privacy in public is context. A political example was Fox News displaying a picture of POTUS 'obviously' staring at the behind of a woman; this was plastered all over the news and internet. Then the video from which the pic was taken was aired and it showed POTUS helping a woman up onto the level where he was standing. The picture was purposely taken out of context for its political implications.

The point this leads to is that if the police have five years worth of snapshots of where and when you vehicle is/was, it can be cherry-picked to prove any story-line; and if you don't know what data base the pics come from, you can't demand to see the entire record. I do not expect privacy in public but I also do not expect that every thing I do in public to be available to the world.

I remember back in 2010 there was a pendant for sale that could be programmed to take pictures of your surroundings either in continuous mode (on different time scales from seconds to hours) or on some other criteria. Would you be comfortable with one of your friends having and using this? How about that guy who had a camera installed in his eye socket. Would you be comfortable with him? Would you want Linda Tripp as a friend?

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Years ago I read a science fiction story with the premise that a machine exists that allows viewing of events in the distant past but access to this machine is tightly controlled by the government for the use of historians. I think it was The Dead Past by Isaac Asimov. A researcher who has been denied access decides to find a way to build his own machine. The long and short is that the machine allows the viewing of any time in the past. But the past begins immediately so in effect, such a machine guarantees that no one anywhere no longer has any privacy because any event at any location at any time can be viewed. The final line of the story is "Happy goldfish bowl to you, to me, to everyone, and may each of you fry in hell forever.?

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There is another set of books that might be relevant: Hominids, Hybrids, Humans by Robert J. Sawyer which feature a society where every person has a computer on them on them at all times and recording video of everything but it is not dystopian.

Edited by Agilemind

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That was the premise of Final Cut (an underrated Robin Williams movie). Most people have a chip implanted at birth that records everything they see and hear. A select group of people (who do not have the chip) edit these recordings after death to give to the surviving relatives as a memento of the deceased's life.

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The Artificial Kid by Bruce Sterlinggoes into the pendant idea in some detail except that the Kid has 3 or 4 cameras following him at all times. He has combat for the entertainment channels. Since many of things I could say about how good the book is and so on would be spoilers, I will just say that it was pretty good

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