The man secretly recorded Romney speaking to a small crowd of donors in Florida last May. In the video Romney dismisses 47% of Americans as welfare dependent hand-out seekers, who will automatically vote for Obama without any thought. He goes on to say that he will not concern himself with those Americans, and instead focus on the voters he think merit consideration.
In the full interview, the filmmaker’s identity will be revealed, and he will have a chance to defend his actions: "It was tough … and I debated for a little while but in the end, I really felt like it had to be put out. I felt I owed it to the people who couldn't afford to be there themselves to hear what he [Romney] really thought."
Whether it turns out the man was simply seizing an opportunity to make money by selling highly publishable footage, or he truly acted in good conscious for the public good – one thing remains true: The world is a lot more transparent these days.
Our privacy debates seem to mostly center on whether Instagram will sell our pictures, or if employers should be allowed to judge our Facebook posts – but the internet and smart phone culture have created far more prevalent and meaningful transformations in how we exchange information.
Any time a celebrity, politician, or policeman walks into public, their words and actions can be recorded by hundreds of electronic eyes. The big brother state of security cameras pales in comparison to the record-keepers we store in our own pockets. And while some people worry their phones can be used to track them and study their behavior, they forget that the power swings both ways. The first pictures from Tahir square came from an iPhone. The police brutality displayed at the Occupy Wall street protests were all caught by citizens, rather than professional media.
Look at the people in the background. Every person walking around with a smart phone is a potential video witness to an event, instant conveyer of opinion via Twitter, documentarian of injustice or potential recorder of scientific discovery. Telephones allowed us to hear each other across the globe. Fax machines allowed us to share data instantaneously. Now, millions of electronic eyeballs connected by a world wide web, give us access to view the whole planet in a way that would have required hundreds of flights not a generation ago.
This massive informational power can be used to create a more honest and transparent world. One where those who presume to lead us, are held accountable for their actions, and live under the same scrutiny by which they judge us. In Israel, there was a famous incident 1984, where the 300 Bus was hijacked by terrorists. Two of the hijackers were shot, but another two were captured alive. However, in the rage of the situation, they were beaten to death by Shin Bet (Israel's internal security.) No one would have known that two terrorists survived, if a brave journalist hadn't run up to the firefight and captured this picture of Shin Bet officers dragging one suspect away.
History is rife with moments where one lucky, brave and diligent photographer had the foresight to capture an important event. These days, all the passersby, background attendees, gawking witnesses and even waiters have an opportunity to contribute to a truthful public record.
It's a more honest world, and leadership will have to adjust accordingly.