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think before you say cheese
because everybody is a spy
by jeffrey d. walker
pop culture

Cell phones changed a lot of our world. This is mostly for the best, but there are drawbacks.

For example, the cell phone ruined a number of movie and television plots that rely on a lack of communication in order to work. One user on Yahoo who goes by the screen name "Ello Guv" had an example that made me chuckle: had cell phones been prevalent in Madonna's 1985 film, Desperately seeking Susan, that film could have been concluded like this:

Caller: "Susan... Is that You"
Susan: "Yep"
Caller: "Where are you"
Susan: "Tescos"
Caller: "Ok see ya later"

It may be that the invention of the cell phone, which negated many historical suspense storylines, may explain why Hollywood seems to have run out of ideas. But I'm not going to jump into that argument here. Instead, I'm going to discuss how cell phones can ruin your own life's storyline.

When I say that, I'm not meaning the minor embarrassments, such as your "Mmmbop" ringtone that you forgot to silence before a board meeting, or, responding to "I love you", when you're in an awkward place, like on a bus, or in line at a bank. That crap, you'll have to sort out on your own.

I'm talking about Vanessa Hudgens and Michael Phelps type embarrassment. In case you forgot their relative scandals, Hudgens was embarrassed when intimate photographs of her surfaced, and Phelps was embarrassed as well as suspended from swimming when a photograph of him smoking a bong surfaced.

Both of these stories are well documented, including my prior discussion on the Phelps matter, so I won't further review those story's facts again here. Suffice it to say, both parties wished that their particular photograph had never been taken on some level.

And that's the kind of thing you have to be a little worried about.

It used to be that someone quickly and secretly snapping a picture was the stuff only spies could do. Besides a PPK, an Aston Martin and a Vodka Martini, James Bond is more often than not armed with some type of a camera in every film. This is understandable, as a spy's foremost assignment is to gather intelligence.

But so as to not get caught, James' various cameras were often disguised, such as in a tape-recorder, a ring, binoculars, and in one case a regular camera that fired deadly lasers.

But today's James Bond is not so impressive to the audience, at least with respect to photography, because in the 2006 Bond film, Casino Royale James' camera was merely in his Sony Ericsson K800 phone. And these days, almost every cell phone has a camera. And moreover, almost everyone has a cell phone at this point.

So, I guess in a way, almost every cell phone owner is kind of a spy.

Yeah, that sounds cool. But, in a way, it's sort of not. Because now, virtually all your waking moments, from the mundane to the embarrassing, can probably be quickly photographed, and then texted / emailed / Facebooked / etc., to anyone and everyone in almost no time at all.

Of course, this may not concern you. If you aren't photographing yourself nude, or smoking bongs (neither activity arguably being the most discreet courses of action), then you might believe you have nothing to worry about. And even if you do engage in activities such as nude photography or puffing doobies, you probably are not rolling around with the star profile of Hudgens and Phelps... at least not yet. So you might not be majorly concerned.

But you must consider that if your star profile ever rises one day, your indiscreet photos of the past may return at that time. And moreover, just because you are being discreet, doesn't mean that those around you are doing so.

I read a story online last week entitled Camera Phones Robbing College Football Stars of Privacy, which references Florida Gator quarterback, Tim Tebow, discussing how some female fans have attempted to remove their shirts while posing in pictures with him. There is also a reference to an episode when former Notre Dame Quarterback, Brady Quinn, had to explain a photograph of his hand on another man's crotch.

Again, photos of your hand on a crotch: probably not the greatest exercise in discretion.

But as for Tebow, people approaching him and then quickly turning a seemingly harmless photo request into something suggestive, that is a fear that should concern even the most discreet of persons.

As the father of last year's Heisman Trophy winner, Sam Bradford, is quoted in the above piece regarding fans asking his son for a photograph: "You don't know if you're actually having that picture made with a known gambler or a known prostitute or a known drug dealer." The point being, any brief request by a stranger to "take a photo with me" could conceivably result in a photo of you in an objectively compromising position.

And this is just straight photography; I'm not even considering the ramifications of the ease at which a digital photograph can be altered these days with computer software.

So is this piece all doom and gloom then? Was it true when strange tribal religions suggested that permitting your photograph to be taken would steal your soul?

Not exactly. I'm not suggesting you run from cameras like Princess Diana. But, if everyone is now a spy by virtue of the fact that they're all armed with cameras, you might have to start thinking like a spy yourself.

Always be aware of the situation around you. Take a second when you see people getting into a pose, and consider what that image is going to look like out of context. Think for a second about the possibility of the image of you doing a keg-stand getting forwarded to a future employer. In the heat of passion, ask yourself if the photo of your junk is worth the promise of "it's just between us." Ask yourself (or better yet, ask the person who is getting ready to ask you to pose), "where is this picture going to end up?"

Because even if you're not last year's Heisman Trophy winner, nor an Olympic gold medalist, nor a film actress, you still probably have something to be embarrassed about. And you'd probably prefer not to be.


A practicing attorney and semi-professional musician, Walker writes for his own amusement, for the sake of opinion, to garner a couple of laughs, and to perhaps provoke a question or two, but otherwise, he doesn't think it'll amount to much.

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