When No One Is Watching

By Bill Maher

I saw something disturbing during last month’s Oscars telecast – I mean besides Neil Patrick Harris in his underpants. There was a commercial for a product called the Nest Dropcam:

In the ad, a kid about four says, “As a toddler, I enjoy three activities – breaking things, spilling things and just general destruction in the abstract sense. So I, for one, am not a big fan of Nest. You see, the Dropcam is always watching, even when my folks are in another room. I rue the day that this product was invented, but I’m not one hundred percent sure what ‘rue’ means.” And then the announcer says, “Nest Dropcam. Welcome to a more thoughtful home.”

What is the Nest Dropcam? It’s a video surveillance camera set up on the mantle to watch and record the kid. Because what better way to prepare your child to live in NSA America than converting your home into an East German-style Stasi state? 

Don’t get me wrong. I think little Citizenfour in this commercial is a precocious brat who probably deserves a good spanking. And he’d probably get one too if Mom and Dad weren’t “in another room” cooking meth.

But given the choice between raising your kid with a mindset of constantly being under surveillance and sometimes not knowing how the lamp got broken, isn’t it better to err on the side of instilling a sense of personal privacy?

When we’ve lost the ability to choose with whom we share our private thoughts and activities, and all that we express and do is fair game for observation, recording and recrimination, haven’t we lost the very essence of freedom?

It’s been said that character is defined by how you behave when no one is watching. But if kids never have a moment when no one is watching, how are they ever supposed to develop character?