How Smart Cameras Can Be Cool and Intrusive

Canon's PICK can track you and your friends

Key Takeaways

  • Canon’s motorized PICK camera automatically snaps photos of your family and friends.
  • Photos are stored locally on a microSD card.
  • You can use an app to tell PICK who to focus on.
Canon's Powershot PICK smart camera in black and white on two similar color tables
Canon

Canon’s new PowerShot PICK is either an amazing novelty, or a creepy, unwelcome intrusion, possibly depending on your age.

The PICK is a little robot camera that sits in your home and takes photographs, but despite the possible privacy issues, it’s an impressive little gadget that could grow on you the more you learn about it. 

"While the PowerShot PICK looks like an interesting piece of technology, there are a few privacy concerns," Chris Hauk, consumer privacy expert at PixelPrivacy, told Lifewire via email. "Depending on local laws, users could be required to inform everyone who enters their home that they may be the subject of photos and videos."

Pick a Picture

The little PICK measures 90mm, or 3.5 inches tall, packs a 12 megapixel sensor, a zoom lens, and motors that allow it to spin and tilt to face any direction. You set it down in a room, or outdoors (it has a tripod mount underneath), and PICK goes to work. The camera exploits Canon’s face and scene recognition technology, which is scarily good in modern cameras.

Canon Powershot PICK rotating from side to side
Canon

"AI focus tracking for humans and pets, birds, etc is remarkable," photographer Orlando Sydney told Lifewire via email. "What started out fairly primitive with limited use for professional photographers has now been developed into great tools for the pros to use on commercial shoots."

It scans the space, picking out faces, preferring areas with a high number of people. It will then compose and snap images, supposedly timing them just right. The PICK switches automatically between still images and video, depending on what it sees. Photos and videos are saved to a microSD card, and you can connect the device to an app on your phone. It’s impressive, but it’s not a human photographer.

"Right now I can see it being great for home parties..."

"When it comes to taking good photos, sometimes I think setting up the camera right (framing the subject, placing the camera in a good spot, etc.) is more important than being able to recognize faces or analyze the scene," photographer Michael Sand told Lifewire via email. "And this is still a human job."

Sharing and Staring

There are a few ways to control the PICK, but it mostly does its own thing. You can command it to take a photo or video using your voice, for example, or tell it to stop. But the camera really comes into its own when using the companion app. And this is where the ethics and privacy become a little shady. 

You can, for instance, mark a person as a favorite, and from then on, the PICK will target them more often. This is great to make sure you get more photos of the birthday girl or boy at a kids party, but less welcome when you target someone at a more grown-up gathering.

The Canon Powershot PICK recognizing two kids at a table
Canon

"Right now I can see it being great for home parties for the 20- to 50-something age bracket that, a) are aware of the camera and its purpose, and b) don’t want to mess around or be distracted and [have to] actually pick up the camera to take shots of their friends," says Sydney.

Canon has smartly left out the cloud component, opting to save to a local SD card, and to let you share images yourself using the app. But the problems start before any sharing begins. As Hauk points out, this could count as surveillance, and be subject to disclosure laws in some places.

"...users could be required to inform everyone who enters their home that they may be the subject of photos and videos."

And even if it’s not, some guests won’t be happy about being tracked and photographed automatically. It’s easy to spot a human snapping your photo, but much harder to keep track of a little camera on a table. And then, what is the owner doing with the images?

This is a sensitive issue, and one which may become more sensitive as we invite more smart speakers and cameras into our homes.

"If the user saves their photos to iCloud, Google Photos, or another online storage service," says Hauk, "they could be vulnerable to data breaches, as has happened in the past."

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