By all rights the Slingbox, which takes your cable or satellite television signal and sends it via the Internet to your PC, is pretty cool. Basically, you can watch the TV in your living room from anywhere in the world, as long as you have web access strong enough to sustain streaming video. Anyone who follows tech trends could probably chalk this up as inevitable, because TV signals are stalking us. They're in your iPod, your PDA, your laptop--and soon, the cathode tentacles will reach into your SmartPhone. And that's fine, I suppose. Nothing spices up your commute like having to slalom through a bunch of oblivious twits bouncing off each other and yelling at that stupid woman to stop spinning and guess the friggin' puzzle already.
Predictably, there are more nefarious motives afoot. A colleague of mine with a 9-month-old son has plugged her Slingbox into a hidden webcam in her apartment, and she uses it to spy on her oblivious nanny during the day. I'm still forming my overall view of this. Lawyer friends tell me it's perfectly legal in New York state, but the whole business still gives me the creeps. Questions abound:
- Does your nanny give up her right to personal privacy when you entrust your child in her care?
- Is it prudent or paranoid to want to keep an eye on the stranger who has free reign in your home for ten hours a day?
- Does your relationship with your nanny change if you see her naked?
- Why the hell was she walking around naked in the first place?
- Is she some sort of exhibitionist?
- Why doesn't this webcam have a better zoom lens?
And most importantly: If you're a working parent and you can pick up one of these gizmos for around $250, do you want one?