Dredging up the Past: Lifelogging, Memory, and Surveillance

Article Source: University of Chicago Law Review, Vol. 75, No. 1, p. 47, 2008; U of Penn Law School, Public Law Research Paper #07-33
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This article hypothesizes the potential costs and benefits of widespread lifelogging.


Policy Relevance:

While no policy regulation is necessary at this point in time, future regulation may become necessary if lifelogging becomes prevalent.


Key Takeaways:
  • Lifelogging is the process of archiving an individual’s existence for permanent storage. Much like a digital personal time capsule, lifelogging allows an individual to preserve an image of the past.
  • One suggested method of creating lifelogs is wearing a video camera around the neck in order to capture a continuous feed of every activity engaged in. The data would then be stored to allow for future use.
  • In theory, lifelogs could replace current methods of recording our past. Daily journals, photo albums, and scrapbooks would be unnecessary if every memory could be recalled via video feed and played back live.
  • Proponents of lifelogging suggest a series of potential benefits:

    • Lifelogging might encourage introspection and self-knowledge.
    • Sharing of lifelogs might improve intimacy, understanding, and accountability in personal relationships.
    • Lifelogs could preserve family history.
    • Personal security would also improve, as there would be a record of all crimes of assault, rape, and other in-person crimes.
  • However, lifelogging also creates a series of concerns, most prominently privacy. Lifelogging requires an individual to surrender all privacy to their log and also creates privacy concerns for every individual they come in contact with.
  • Full-life lifelogging technology does not yet exist outside the laboratory and, as such, regulation is not yet necessary. However, in the future, it may be necessary to ensure that lifelogs are not made mandatory and to protect them as personal property in order to ensure that personal privacy does not become a thing of the past.



Anita Allen

About Anita Allen

Anita L. Allen is an expert on privacy law, bioethics, and contemporary values, and is recognized for her scholarship about legal philosophy, women’s rights, and race relations. In 2010 she was appointed by President Obama to the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues.