Youngsters star-struck by Hollywood once fantasized about being on camera. Now, they're on camera whether they want to be or not, and so is the rest of the country. Everyone is starring in somebody's movie -- the banks', the government's, law enforcement's.
Great Britain appears to be the undisputed leader in closed-circuit TV, and in 2004 it was estimated that the average Briton was photographed 300 times a day by surveillance cameras.
An Internet search says that the average American going about everyday business had been photographed 75 times a day, a number that had grown to 200 by 2010. After that, video surveillance was so omnipresent that it seemed as if no one felt it was worth keeping track of.
The areas around government buildings in Washington, D.C., are so blanketed by cameras that anyone who works there regularly should start demanding residuals. But the law says that if you are on public property, your image is public property.
And D.C. takes a lot of photos. It has video surveillance cameras, mainly for traffic offenses, in many neighborhoods and electronic readers that can scan 1,800 license plates a minute. Mercifully, they don't photograph the driver, but they could.
The modern cameras are many magnitudes of sophistication from the days when the photographer had everybody line up and squint into the sun to say, "Cheese!"
The cameras are high-resolution, can considerably magnify the image, work at night with infrared vision and do facial recognition and biometric identification.
Some might date photographic snooping to the "nanny cam," making sure the au pair was feeding the little tyke his strained broccoli, but we're well past that now.
Then came dashboard cameras in police cars that kept cable TV fed with a limitless amount of car chases and drunks falling down on their way to the squad car. Now, thanks in part to the stop-and-frisk brouhaha, there's a plan to mount miniature cameras on the police themselves.
It's a growing fact of life that we're never really offstage.
And thanks to the massive eavesdropping by the National Security Agency, we now have a soundtrack to go with the candid video recordings of closed-circuit TV.
The Wall Street Journal once wrote, "Data about a typical American is collected in more than 20 different ways. ..." And why do they collect this data? Because they want to sell us stuff. We thought we were making progress on privacy with call-blocking and caller ID, but it only forced the sales staffs to come up with ever-craftier ideas.
Once again, Great Britain seems to be leading the way. The government, evidently, is trying to stop a company from embedding devices in public trash cans -- immediately dubbed by the press "spy bins" -- that measure the Wi-Fi signals from smartphones.
Said The Associated Press: "The trash cans join a host of everyday objects, from televisions to toilets, that are being manufactured with the ability to send and receive data, opening up new potential for interaction -- and surveillance."
I can save somebody a lot of trouble. If I'm on the toilet, I'm either reading Sports Illustrated or The New Yorker. And by no means am I, as the movie "Sunset Boulevard" had it, ready for my close-up.
So there. Now leave me alone.