Big Brother's Creepy Little Brother Snoops as Productivity Tool

Screen blogging, a radical approach to privacy, is volunteering to be snooped upon in order to be more productive.

I've heard of hiding in plain sight, but some people choose to lift the veil protecting their privacy and expose all for the world to see. In this radical approach to privacy, some people want everything to be made public. Don't bother to fight to keep what privacy is left, but instead accept that there is no privacy and that anyone who wants to could be watching you. These folks believe if the world has no privacy at all, there will be less opportunity for exploiting information.

Do you love Big Brother's snooping? Have you ever wished that you too could snoop on folks? There are plenty of people who are exhibitionists; think of how many people participate in chat roulette. People tweet what they are doing, reading, eating; pretty much you name it and someone has tweeted it to be forever archived digitally in the Library of Congress. But you might not want your boss to find out about a new, creepy and invasive "productivity tool" called Snoopon.me.

Snoopon.me lets family and friends watch what you're doing online by posting screenshots from your computer to its website at regular intervals, typically every 10 minutes. There is an open source script to download for Windows or Mac if a person wants to willingly and voluntarily participate in screen blogging. If you are slacking at work, or freeloading, then people will know.

According to the Snoop On Me site: "Recent screenshots constitute a screen trail. By observing the screen trail it is easy to grasp what somebody is doing: editing documents, browsing the web, watching a movie or playing games. The details such as contents of the document being edited stay private. Scaling down of screenshots makes texts illegible."

The Snoopon.me website suggests it will help people overcome procrastination and other unwanted urges. "Visits to websites your spouse would disapprove drop precipitously." The possibility that your friends and colleagues can see your screenshot may help keep you focused. "Give your fans an inside scoop...And there are also 'snoopers' who just love to watch other people work." It seems to me that voyeurs are probably hoping to see something other than work slide down the screen every few seconds.

What inspired this site? Maxim Kharchenko, Co-founder of Snoopon.me replied, "The idea of Snoopon.me came to me more than a year ago. At that time I was employed by a big technology company and Snoopon.me has its roots in the corporate environment. On one hand, I was procrastinating a lot and thinking what can help me to be more effective. On the other hand I had a lingering suspicion that my bosses do procrastinate on the similar scale. I thought more openness should be of help and started to work on Snoopon.me as a side project. I wanted to make something close to employee monitoring software but make it both voluntary and reciprocal. Also, privacy debate amazed me as self-contradictory and I wanted to create somewhat of a no-privacy parody."

The site makes it clear that you are using the service "AS IS." According to Snoopon.me, "the average lifetime of a screenshot is 4-6 hours. Afterwards it is permanently removed...Unless it was 'pinned down' by someone." Fascinated snoopers can add your screenshots to their 'pinboard' and comment on them. This sounds creepy to me, but the site states that these screenshots can still be deleted.

"Snoopon.me adds spice to the never-ending privacy on the net debate; with a touch of parody." Perhaps parody explains the "I love my Big Brother" logo. Adding spice to the privacy debate? I suppose if you don't mind social engineering and low tech shoulder surfing, then you may be fine with this immediate and worldwide public posting of your desktop, or "screen blogging."

I asked Kharchenko: What would you say to people who would be concerned about privacy? Maxim Kharchenko emailed his answer:

To people who care much about privacy:

1. Surveillance is everywhere now. CCTV camera records your movements. Your employer snoops on you. Spy cameras and other technology never get worse, only better.

2. I believe that the efficient countermeasure to the current privacy situation is to make it deliberate. Make your surveillance camera feed public. Use Twitter instead of e-mail. Use Snoopon.me. Know for sure that you are watched and adjust to the new reality.

3. Snoopon.me uses safe mini-snapshots and makes most texts unreadable. Snoopon.me only keeps 48 recent screenshots, the rest is deleted irrecoverably. Snoopon.me lets you delete a screenshot with a single mouse click.

4. Snoopon.me is not for everyone.

There are several services online that are meant for sharing. If people have no privacy/security concerns about it, they can connect their credit card to blippy and it will publicly display their online purchases. There are many productivity programs like FocusBooster, VirtuaWin, and JDarkroom. There are also many tools to help a person stop wasting time or to limit browsing addictions such as PageAddict, KeepMeOut, StayFocusd, LeechBlock, xMinutesAt, ToVisitOrNot, or MinutesPlease. I neither endorse nor make security guarantees of any add-on listed above, but I'd rather be poked with a sharp stick than donate my data to the public with screenshots every 10 minutes. It seems a bit like Big Brother's little snoop brother is watching. Yet Snoopon.me claims to have people using its service from the U.S., U.K., Germany, China, Brazil, Japan, Taiwan and 79 other countries.

Even if your life is an open book, does that mean your laptop is too? This strikes me as a privacy disaster waiting to happen.

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