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The camera can't be uninstalled.

This is not intended as an amusing anecdote. It's just a frustration I want to vent.

I'm working from home during the pandemic. A week ago my workplace assigned me a new computer, which I didn't need and hadn't asked for. There was nothing wrong with my old computer, but they told me to come into the office and get a new one. Money is no object at work except for wages, and everyone is getting new laptops.

So I came in, picked it up, brought it home, set it up, and I've been using the new laptop for a week. Yesterday was my first Webex meeting since the new computer, and when I logged in to attend the meeting, I saw myself on my screen. Hey, I know that a fat bearded slob in his stained underwear.

This was not a Jeffrey Toobin moment; I was seeing the verification screen before actually entering the meeting, so nobody could see me, except me. But I didn't want to see me, and hadn't expected to see me. My old computer didn't have a camera, and nobody had told me that my new one did.

I've told my workplace in the past, albeit perhaps too politely: No cameras for me, please. I am fine with working from my home, but I'm not inviting my boss, my co-workers, or anyone else into my home. So I didn't virtually attend the meeting, which is no tragedy. Meetings are boring, and I was supposed to talk for a few minutes, which is never fun.

It took me half an hour to figure out that Windows 10 (or maybe my company's set-up) won't allow the camera to be uninstalled. It pretends to uninstall, says it's been uninstalled, but after rebooting the camera is there again. I was able to disable it via the settings, though, and after rebooting it's still disabled. And I've put two layers of duct tape over the lens.

Maybe it's weird of me to so strongly not want a camera pointed at my face 40 hours a week. Well, I know from experience that my boss likes to check on me via the computer, unannounced. My work setup is in my bedroom, and only afterwards did I notice that the direction of the camera would give any intruder a clear view of … things I'd prefer weren't clearly viewed.

If I was twenty or thirty years younger, I'd probably know that computer=camera, but I'm gray and decrepit and it didn't occur to me. I still have a quaint concept of privacy. I think that my employer should not be handing out laptops for employees to use at home, with cameras installed and enabled by default, without telling us.

So I sent a memo to my co-workers and boss, explained why I'd skipped the meeting and offered to help anyone else disable their cameras (so far, I've helped one woman disable hers). I'm thinking I might send a memo to H.R. Or maybe a mass email to the whole company.

Jeez, man, I waited several hours after work before writing this, and slept on it overnight before posting, but re-reading all this gets me angry again. Tell me how far out of date I am with my thinking — it's a computer, you silly boy, so of course it has a camera. It's work, ya dummy, so of course the company has a right to see into your bedroom. My answer is no.



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