Water Fountain Cameras

A water fountain, dutifully spouting water

Ever noticed the little cameras on some water fountains, just under or behind the spray guard? Even wonder what they’re for?

Worldwide Water Fountains (WWF), a supplier and servicing company, says it began installing cameras on school water fountains in 1980 to combat the growing trend of water fountain vandalism, to which many of their clients had been victim. In the first year alone, they caught 1,223 elementary through high school children, mostly boys, writing 3-, 4-, and 5-letter words on water fountains, as well as many kindergarteners putting their lips on the spray guard. They were able to track down the perpetrators, who received various punishments meted out by school officials. Punishments ranged from standing in the corner and missing recess, to writing 100 times “I will not write **** on water fountains,” and in one case, expulsion1

The cameras were later installed on fountains at shopping centers (’84), airports (’88), and almost every other type of public facility (’92), with similar results. This also helped free up security guards for more important matters like doughnut breaks.

The vandalism has since died down, as children turn to more electronic forms of property destruction, but the cameras have found a new use in the “Big Data” game that many corporations are now playing with customers and non-customers alike. The cameras are now integrated with wireless internet networks in all these places, the images of water-drinkers being instantly transmitted to data giants like Google, Apple, and Microsoft, who use facial recognition software to determine exactly who is using the fountains at any given time. This helps them track your location so they can begin setting up physical (non-electronic) pop-up ads wherever you are, whether at the mall, the airport, or in a hospital visiting your sickly grandmother.2

They further use the information gathered for demographic studies on characteristics like race, age, gender, and beauty of those who drink water. In return for data access, the facilities that house the fountains with cameras can use the data analysis for their own purposes. Some are targeting their soft drink and bottled water advertising to current fountain-drinkers, as water fountains do not earn profits. Others use more direct methods to deter free-loaders, such as nozzles that spray you in the eyes and nostrils, but these tend to generate complaints from patrons.

Even apart from advertising, the data has been useful for understanding cheapos and free-loaders, who are somewhat immune to other Big Data programs, since they tend to shop yard sales and thrift stores more than retail stores, and often dodge store credit card programs. It is hoped that this will help fix people who are not properly supporting The Economy, as the data collected is used to generate material for brain-washing programs, which should ultimately improve The Economy by tenfold.

  1. The expulsion was for a bully who attempted to drown another child in the water fountain while singing Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust.”
  2. If you haven’t seen these pop-up ads yet, they are coming. Google is hoping to have physical pop-up ads in 90% of the English-speaking world by 2020.

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