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Most of the time you’re not really snooping on anybody who doesn’t want to be looked at, but you don’t know,” Funch says.“You don’t really know what kind of strange and mysterious things might show up.” Born in Denmark and now living in France after almost two decades in California, Funch, fifty-four, strikes a roguish figure, with a thin face and dark goatee.Flemming Funch, who created the basic format of the site in a single weekend, followed a whim of listing and displaying feeds from webcams through automated searches, finding cameras that, as he says, were perhaps not meant to be public.
Webcam aggregation sites touch on the paradox of data availability — we choose to share much of our lives publicly but often feel uneasy at the thought of being watched.
The cameras range from capturing the banal to the bizarre.
A Russian hospital used to have a streaming camera in an operating room, where viewers could watch medical procedures in process.
“They love that Internet bench,” Funch says, comparing it to people in the same room watching television, conversation naturally springing from their shared entertainment.
“They would hang out in the chat room on the Internet bench as if they were there and just chat with each other.” Some of the feeds on Opentopia are the usual cutesy Internet suspects, like the camera in the cat room of DOGSASPEN, an animal shelter in Colorado, which offers a kind of scavenger hunt to find the sly creatures.
A half-dozen puppies pounce, leap and roll, chasing each other around an indoor playroom.