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The Future of Video Surveillance 38

Posted by timothy
from the you-will dept.
An anonymous reader writes ""In heavily monitored London, England...the average person is filmed by more than 300 cameras each day." Technology Review outlines what we can expect from the eye in the sky in the near future."
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The Future of Video Surveillance

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  • away around it all (Score:5, Informative)

    by Stinson (564450) <cancerouspete.cox@net> on Monday March 17, 2003 @07:48PM (#5533008) Homepage Journal
    A group called the 'Institute for Applied Autonomy' [appliedautonomy.com] didn't like all the cameras in NYC, so they went around marking locations, and they have an online service called 'iSee' [appliedautonomy.com] What it does is allow you to click on a start point and a destination, and it will draw you a route that follows the least amount of cameras in new york city. It would be very useful if someone did the same for London
    • Until someone decides that's a help to terrorists and a National Security Concern. Why is it again that cameras in public places are an issue? They wouldn't interfere with benign things I'd imaginge(because there'd be 1000s of incidents every hour - much more than any agency could or would want to handle). And if they WANT to watch you, they don't need public cameras... soo?
      I guess the only bad part would be if they could automate the monitoring and build huge databases. But it's a long way (and an expensiv
      • by Stinson (564450)
        traffic camera can do face recognition in cars driving by at 25 MPH... Well around my area, they do have cameras that are high enough quality and quick enough for taking pictures of license plates and faces in the car for running red lights, so it wouldn't be too hard to use that input for some of the new face recognition systems (like the one that uses a 3d face 'fingerprint')
        • by reinard (105934)
          Actually the pictures taken by cameras for running red lights are oftentimes so bad that you cannot tell who's driving the car. Think about it: reflections from the window, the upper portion of the window is tinted more often than not, the window isn't straight so the distortians aren't symmetric, people usually look at the road, not the cameras overhead, headlights, weather etc. What they can usually see is the license plate, and that because it has a special coating that makes it highly reflective, and th
          • Actually the pictures taken by cameras for running red lights are oftentimes so bad that you cannot tell who's driving the car.

            Unfortunately, this is no longer necessarily the case. People in the UK were using the lack of personal identification as a defence to speeding charges. There are now a new breed of cameras found on our roads that face towards the driver rather than away precisely so that a clear facial image can be captured. If you think they can't clearly see you, try a web search for some of

        • Trafic cameras (Score:3, Informative)

          by chrestomanci (558400)
          When I was driving to the office this moring, I was passing through a small village with a 50mph speed limit. The cops had setup a device with an iluminated sign that read as I passed "A123BCD - 47mph"

          I am assuming that it was only there as a deterent, and that the cops would not be sending out speeding tickets to those that where, but it sill bothers me that my licene plate was recorded when I was not speeding.

          I live in the UK BTW.

          * Not my real licence plate.
      • by nurb432 (527695) on Monday March 17, 2003 @09:46PM (#5533675) Homepage Journal
        Because its none of their damned business where I'm walking. Private citizens should not be under constant investigation.

        And no, the argument ' if you aren't doing anything wrong' is not acceptable. Its my life, they can goto hell they don't need to be watching me buy a damned burger or walk to my car.

        Basic privacy is part of the rights of all people. This violates it.. but you people allow it in the name of 'safety'.. its not the governments job to take care of you , its YOURS.. get it straight and do it. This all has to stop.
        • by reinard (105934)
          I think you're forgetting that when you walk out in PUBLIC (it's called that for a reason) you are no longer PRIVATE. Anybody walking around, driving by etc, can see you, identify you, take pictures of you - whatever. Just because a technical device that produces images of you to protect you from thieves or idiots running red lights sees you, does not mean you're being investigated. In fact I bet you there are a lot of women out there who don't mind being watched by a camera in a parking lot just 'walking t
          • by nurb432 (527695)
            Just beacuse its public, and we have never had true privacy doesnt make it right to invade it.

            Its no one's business. Peroid.

            There is a difference between being seen by a person on the other side of the street and recording your activites. Think about it really hard and you will also understand.

            If you dont see it as being investigated, then you are part of the problem, for allowing it to happen.
            • Public property is a "commons". Remember the treatise about the tragedy of the commons? I forget who wrote it (sad) but the point is that there is no motivation to keep up the common ground.

              So what do we do? We create a superclass to watch us, the government. It governs us, by definition. We asked them to keep up our public properties. They are responding the best way they know how. We want them to catch criminals, and they are responding. If all we really wanted (As a society) was privacy and protection

          • by symbolic (11752)
            I think you're forgetting that when you walk out in PUBLIC (it's called that for a reason) you are no longer PRIVATE.

            You are taking a situation of necessity, and turning it into a justification for something that isn't correct, ethical, or warranted. If I want to get from my home to another location, I have no other reasonable alternative than to use the public roadways, walkways, and other areas. I believe these are often referred to as the commons - that is, resources available for the benefit and enj
          • I think you're forgetting that when you walk out in PUBLIC (it's called that for a reason) you are no longer PRIVATE.

            So? Don't I have the right to not be treated like a criminal, or a rat in a cage? I am a free man, and deserve a certain amount of respect due simply to that fact alone. "Stay out of my business, and I'll stay out of yours." This basic precept is part of what allows society to function.

            You're right that we've never had complete anonymity. But neither did we waive all right to privacy,

            • You are not being treated like a criminal when the government puts up traffic cams to monitor intersections, and I'm not even going to respond to the 'rat in a cage' analogy - you know that's bs. You are free and and you do get PLENTY of freedoms and respect (especially in the US) simply because of that.

              "Stay out of my business, and I'll stay out of yours."

              Ok then, let's keep the government out of ALL your business, like maintaining roads, catching traffic offenders and criminals, providing emergency s
              • I don't even know where to start attacking this post, so I'll just go through it piece by piece.

                You are not being treated like a criminal when the government puts up traffic cams to monitor intersections,

                I drive safely and, by and large, legally. And yet, I have been flashed by speed cameras on several occasions now when I wasn't going over the limit. Maybe they were the fakes with cheap sensors, maybe they were misconfigured, who knows? It was certainly very unnerving at the time, and I spent the nex

        • I will agree that people do need to take care of themselves more and rely less on government. It is not the government's job to raise my children--that's why they are called "parents." Likewise, it is not the government's job to protect people from themselves. If people do dumb things that affect only themselves, then fine, that's their own problem.

          its not the governments job to take care of you , its YOURS.. get it straight and do it. This all has to stop.

          The primary job of government is, in fact, t
      • by Onassis (445423)
        I guess the only bad part would be if they could automate the monitoring and build huge databases. But it's a long way (and an expensive one at that) down the road...

        Despite automated monitoring being a long way down the road, someone should still try to prevent it. This should be fought so that it doesn't become legal because it isn't explicitly illegal.

        Not that it matters, because unless there are powerfull (read: rich) people reading /., then legislation will continue along the lines of their intere

    • Useful for who?
      Wear a hat, a fake beard and don't look up if you are that concerned!

      What in the world would you be afraid of being seen by cameras for? They are 99% not monitored, they arent in any way linked so that someone could determine where you were going, and who cares where you are going anyways!

      I hope people are spending time and money videotaping me, because its only going to damage their equipment :P
    • There's no way all of the state operated cameras could be recorded - it's hard enough keeping track of (fixed location) speed cameras. One new development in North London (and Barnsley, but that's another story) are omnidirectional cylindrical camera packages fixed to lamp posts with small aerials to transmit pictures - by positioning multiple cameras in a very small area (eg Green Lanes alongside Finsbury Park) operators can record the faces of all pedestrians and drivers as well as vehicle licence plates.


  • "Trying to avoid provoking privacy fears, Keith Fallon, a Computer Recognition Systems project engineer, says, "we're not saving any of the information we capture. Everything is deleted immediately." But the company could change its mind and start saving the data at any time. No one on the road would know."

    So, these are useful how?

    • DOH! I art stupid. Just re-read - "police use the information to plan emergency routes. But as the computers calculate traffic flow, they are also making a record of all cars that cross the bridge--when they do so, their average speed, and (depending on lighting and weather conditions) how many people are in each car."
  • by Dyolf Knip (165446) on Monday March 17, 2003 @10:39PM (#5533942) Homepage
    As David Brin said, the cameras are coming whether we like it or not. The only question is who gets to use them. Would you rather all the feeds went to police HQ where we can only hope they make good use of them, or should they instead be available for everyone to see?
    • It's not as simple as that, I'm afraid. If the public can use the cameras and they show events in real time, then someone could place a bomb and make it detonate at the "right" moment. Delaying the video has its own set of problems.

      The reasons we have surveillance cameras is, I guess, that they are cost effective. I don't see them going away (politically, there will always be something more pressing to spend money on, or so it will be argued).

      But in the tradition of Juvenal, how about monitoring cameras

      • If the public can use the cameras and they show events in real time, then someone could place a bomb and make it detonate at the "right" moment

        That's the best argument against public usage you can make? Bear in mind, the act of placing the bomb is likely to be caught and stored, even if nobody realizes it at the time.

        But in the tradition of Juvenal, how about monitoring cameras and microphones on each and every person who monitors the surveillance cameras, with public access?

        Excellent solution. Came

        • That's the best argument against public usage you can make?

          Sigh. People always make the mistake of going for extreeme examples. How about - my work may use it to see that I'm calling in sick or moonlighting or something. The media might use it to keep tabs on celebrities

          Excellent solution. Cameras might be on every street corner, but nowhere will they be as numerous as in the police stations and City Hall. Public servants, after all...

          Sounds like too much effort to me. To watch the watchers,
          • Sounds like too much effort to me. To watch the watchers, all we need is to keep track of who's been looking at what, and when.

            The problem is that logs can be tampered with. I think the real solution is ala Greg Bear's books, where they have the Oversight office. On any given case you can make two petitions to oversight and ask them to give you access to insanely detailed records kept on every person; In most cases the requests are completely denied, or if you do get information back it's spotty as he

            • The problem is that logs can be tampered with.

              That is true. Another possibility is the surveilance equipment would be tampered with to gain unauthorised and untraceable access. This leads me to the conclusion that most safguards are inadequate.
  • by geekwench (644364) on Tuesday March 18, 2003 @05:38AM (#5535321)
    Video surveillance, especially in public areas, is one of those sticky subjects that invariably provokes a strong opinion. Surveillance cameras are bad, but the footage that leads police to a serial rapist is not. If you have nothing to hide, then you have nothing to fear. OTOH, do you want a record of your weekly routine filed away somewhere; and why is it anyone's business when and where you pick up your dry-cleaning?

    As has been already said: like it or not, the cameras are here to stay. They serve many truly useful purposes. (The jury is still out as to whether tracking red-light scofflaws is among those useful purposes.) However, as we have seen many times, any useful technology can be abused. The only thing that will keep the Total Information Awareness project from becoming an Orwellian nightmare is the public's insistance on accountability. As an aside: Just don't ask me right now if I believe that the public is capable of insisting on any such thing. The short answer is cautiously optimistic, but not before we're slapped repeatedly in the face to make us aware again of why accountability is a Good Thing.

  • Out of context quote from the article:

    But the rise of omnipresent surveillance will be driven as much by ordinary citizens' understandable--even laudatory--desires for security, control, and comfort as by the imperatives of business and government.

    Am I the only one who finds the wording offensive? grr... good ordinary citizens opting for control my arse! When stuff like this gets printed in mass media I get pissed off...

    ...disappears into the nearest bar, mumbling obscenely

  • Ergo... (Score:3, Funny)

    by 4of12 (97621) on Wednesday March 19, 2003 @07:03PM (#5548001) Homepage Journal

    In heavily monitored London, England...the average person is filmed by more than 300 cameras each day.

    News Item: Residents of London England are reported to be much more fashionable of late since they became aware of being monitored.

    "Yes, I've started combing my hair over my bald spot," said Jack Sprightly, pub owner in the East End.

    "I've noticed a lot my customers, too, have started to shave on a more regular basis and to change their clothes before coming over to the pub from working in the garage."

    "I'm all in favor of the new surveillance measures if it means `looking smart and proper' for a change."

    "Most blokes are in favor of it once they find out the benefits," said Jack. "Many of them haven't had a date in years, but were pleasantly surprised how a few minutes of personal grooming has improved their lot in life."

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