All Eyes On You: Cellphone cameras & cyber-shaming

All eyes on youThe Montreal Gazette has a feature story on how the combination of cellphone cameras and the World Wide Web has resulting in the rise of “cyber-shaming” – a new kind of public shaming for wrongdoers, from litterbugs and bad drivers to negligent nannies:

Hey you, the scofflaw parked illegally in the handicapped spot. Smile! You’re in cyberspace. And that goes for all you other wrongdoers out there: the jerk parked in a bike lane, the flasher on the metro, the negligent nanny, the litterbug, the loud-mouth cellphone user and the reckless driver.

It’s time for your close-up.

Public shaming isn’t just for celebrities any more, thanks to a new crop of websites that expose those who commit crimes and misdemeanours that often used to go unpunished.

Cellphone cameras and the World Wide Web have ushered in a new era of cyber-vigilantism in which offenders risk instant, global notoriety.

Some of the websites discussed in the article include (empowering New Yorkers to post images of street harassers), (where people can report on poor babysitting practices witnessed in public), and (various photos of cars parked by, well, assholes).

While these sites of Internet vigilantism can be empowering to victims of wrongdoing and might shame others to change their actions, they also point to a growing trend of the erosion of privacy in public. My contribution to the article summarizes this concern:

The risk of reprisals by enraged victims is one of several aspects of the trend that concern Michael Zimmer, a doctoral candidate in the department of culture and communications at New York University.

“I call it peer-to-peer surveillance,” said Zimmer, who writes a blog,, on how technology, values, privacy and surveillance intersect.

“It chips away at our previous conception of privacy” by broadcasting private individuals’ worst traits to a global audience, Zimmer said.

“If I start ranting at someone and someone posts it to show how much of an idiot I am, now there’s 10 million people who know I’m a jerk. Potential employers know I’m a jerk.”

Various links to related posts below…

1 comment

  1. You can jot down the license number to report on a notably terrible or terrific taxi driver or police officer, or even a trucker you see on the highway. Why shouldn’t the same hold true for that most important of ‘drivers’: the one pushing your stroller? It was this reasoning that led to the creation of – check it out.

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