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Facial Recognition Cameras Peering Into Some SF Nightspots 133

Posted by timothy
from the why-I-never-leave-the-house dept.
Fluffeh writes "On Friday, a company called SceneTap flipped the on switch enabling cameras installed in around 20 bars to monitor how full the venues are, the mix of men and women, their ages — and to make all this information available live via an iPhone or Android app. Privacy advocates are unimpressed, though, as the only hint that people are being monitored is via tiny stickers on the windows. Beyond academics and policy experts, some San Francisco bar owners that originally partnered with SceneTap have said that they're pulling out and will be taking down the company's cameras. An increasing number of bars still listed on the SceneTap's site are now saying that they're not working with the Chicago startup, including Mr. Smith's, Southpaw, John Colins, and Bar None."
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Facial Recognition Cameras Peering Into Some SF Nightspots

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  • Much ado (Score:4, Informative)

    by PCM2 (4486) on Sunday May 20, 2012 @06:50PM (#40059805) Homepage

    FWIW, I've lived in San Francisco for 17 years and I've heard of maybe one of these bars. I wouldn't want to extrapolate any kind of "trend" out of this. As the summary suggests, I think there's more press release than reality here.

    • Re:Much ado (Score:4, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 20, 2012 @08:14PM (#40060267)

      I've worked in San Francisco for 12 years and lived in San Francisco for the past 4 of them. If you don't know these bars, get out more. Or stop claiming they're obscure or unknown.

      • by cthulhu11 (842924)
        Perhaps instead you should get sober.
      • by PCM2 (4486)

        I'm not saying the bars don't exist. I'm saying they seem to be cheesy factory bars for club kids and out of towners -- not the kind of place you'd actually go if you lived here. Your statements don't really contradict that.

    • Re:Much ado (Score:5, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 20, 2012 @08:15PM (#40060277)

      You're a regular slashdotter with a 4-digit ID, I'm not sure it means much that you haven't heard of certain bars.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Traffic Cameras: Government Surveillance?
    http://usahitman.com/traffic-cameras-a-part-of-big-brother-police-state/ [usahitman.com]

    Scariest speed camera of all... It checks your insurance, tax and even whether you are tailgating or not wearing a seatbelt
    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-1326035/Speed-camera-checks-insurance-tax-wearing-seatbelt.html [dailymail.co.uk]

    Talking Surveillance Cameras Coming To U.S. Streets
    http://usahitman.com/tsccts/ [usahitman.com]

    "it's just a light!" ... not anymore!!!

  • by rubycodez (864176) on Sunday May 20, 2012 @07:02PM (#40059871)
    just need some vetted moderators to rank the attractiveness of people from either gay or straight perspective, then making tallies per gender per estimated age buckets (21-24, 25-28, 29-32, etc.) THEN you'd really have something.
    • by slew (2918) on Sunday May 20, 2012 @07:34PM (#40060053)

      just need some vetted moderators

      Perhaps the TSA [time.com] has some qualified folks for this job...

      to rank the attractiveness of people from either gay or straight perspective

      Apparently, we don't need real live moderators to rank attractiveness [www.ctv.ca].. On the gay vs straight issue, not sure this helps much in a bar scene (for example, from a straight perspective, maybe I find a lesbian very attractive... not gonna help me much). However, if perhaps there really is gaydar [usnews.com] and they can figure out how to automate that...

      then making tallies per gender per estimated age buckets (21-24, 25-28, 29-32, etc.)

      That's what they are doing w/o the vetted moderators...

      THEN you'd really have something.

      I think privacy advocates already think there is something here...

    • by couchslug (175151)

      "just need some vetted moderators"

      Crowdsource mods at 4chan!

      What could possibly happen?

    • just need some vetted moderators to rank the attractiveness of people

      "+1 Interesting"
      "+1 Interesting"
      "+1 Interesting"
      ...

      "-1 Troll"

      Note: The "Troll" moderation doesn't refer to behavior, either.

    • by Sqr(twg) (2126054)

      Here's a crowdsourcing solution: You log into the site, and get a few faces to rank for attractiveness. The computer then finds other people that you'll also find attractive using the netflix algorithm [wikipedia.org], and tells you what bar they're in.

      (With premium membership, you can upload a photo of a persion you're stalking^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H interested in meeting, and they will use face recognition software to send you a message whenever he/she enters a bar.)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 20, 2012 @07:46PM (#40060115)

    With the reports of undercover officers instigating incidents at protests, I am waiting for the protesting activists to start a facial recognition database of police. In crowd hand held camera's and small toy remotes scanning and feeding images to a central system like this. Already at protests you see both sides scanning both ranks with cameras.

    When you can snap a picture of someone with your iPhone and get a "police" or "not police" report - that will cause the *hit to hit the fan about all sorts of things.

    • Police wear helmets.

  • by PPH (736903) on Sunday May 20, 2012 @07:54PM (#40060165)

    to monitor ....... the mix of men and women,

    How can they differentiate between them?

    • by Rockoon (1252108)

      How can they differentiate between them?

      Martians pay for drinks. Venetians don't.

      • Martians pay for drinks. Venetians don't.

        (a) I'm sure the people of Venice would dispute your claims
        Remember the old joke: Q) How do you make a Venetian Blind? A) Poke out his eyes.

        (b) Inhabitants of Venus would be called Venusians

    • by c_sd_m (995261)
      Skin to clothing ratio?
    • How can they differentiate between them?

      Uhm, they just err quite safely on the side of caution and flag everyone male.

      Not being sexist, just that I've never seen a female geek out over network hardware: Fancisco

    • to monitor ....... the mix of men and women,

      How can they differentiate between them?

      Does it really matter? If Eddie Murphy can't tell the difference, I don't think anyone of us can (until it's too late).

  • by starfishsystems (834319) on Sunday May 20, 2012 @07:55PM (#40060177) Homepage
    I remember setting up a spare video camera in our lab back in the early 90's, capturing images and dumping them out onto an experimental web server we had running. This would be an early hack of the webcam concept.

    I hadn't considered that it would be an issue. But my colleagues were distinctly not impressed, and so I quickly tore down the rig. I think that, to them, the lab was a private space. The camera violated their expectation of privacy, and they didn't like that. I've been thinking about it ever since.

    The expectation of privacy is contextual, of course, and we each have rather firm internal rules about how it works. But often these rules are tacit even to us, so it's not easy to specify them in a way that would be generally useful. For example, is a bar a public space or a private one? See, it turns out to be both. We may go to a bar to meet people, in which aspect it's a public space. And we may also go there because it provides cover for having an intimate conversation, in which aspect it's private.

    As an acceptable tradeoff between security and privacy, we may be okay with security cameras monitoring us, because we assume that those images ordinarily remain locked away in a box somewhere. If the same cameras were to put the same images on the web, we might consider that the tradeoff is no longer acceptable. What about the case where the images are to be scanned for identifying features by some third party? I think the answer will depend on whether we regard the resulting data as anonymizing us or identifying us and tracking our movements. And our legitimate reason to be concerned is that, once the images have been passed to other hands, we just can't know what will happen next.
    • by Koby77 (992785)
      So if I take a picture of the crowd at a nightclub and post it quickly, then it's okay. But if a service has a bunch of video cameras and takes a snapshot and has some software to look at it to judge how many people are there, then it's a privacy violation? I always thought the point of hanging out at bars and nightclubs was to be seen in public.
      • You really need to work on your reading comprehension skills.
      • by epyT-R (613989)

        it's one thing to be seen by pepole.. it's another to be seen by a machine that makes a record of the event and uploads this fact, along with badly generated heuristics, to other systems belonging to people who don't give a shit what happens to you as a result of their use of said fact.

      • by rtb61 (674572)

        I though it was a great idea to have web cams at all venues bars, clubs etc. that way you could check them out before going there. Dull and boring avoid it, over crowded avoid, odd looking patrons etc. For the same reason I now understand why bars and clubs avoided web cams, who wants reality interfering with advertising when it comes to the qualities of a bar, club etc. Nothing to do with protecting privacy and everything to do with protecting revenue.

        • by jmcvetta (153563)

          The DNA Lounge [dnalounge.com] in SF has had live webcams for years. Definitely useful for checking out whether a show is worth the $ they are asking. Fortunately they put on fairly good stuff, so looking at their webcast often makes me get off my ass and go out. Might not work so well for a venue that sucks..

      • by cayenne8 (626475)

        I always thought the point of hanging out at bars and nightclubs was to be seen in public.

        No..the point is to get laid....if not, you've been doing it wrong.

        :)

    • As an acceptable tradeoff between security and privacy, we may be okay with security cameras monitoring us

      Sadly, there are some people that really do find this acceptable.

      • Well, given the right circumstances, we might find all sorts of things beneficial. If it was my camera monitoring my property for my benefit, that's something I could like. Even though you, walking by at the moment that my camera is taking a shot, might not feel so happy about it.

        So, obviously, there's a whole modus vivendi that we have to work out, a legitimate and necessary one, around these rather new situations. And there are people who will use this legitimate circumstance to try to get away with
      • ...be okay with security cameras monitoring us

        Sadly, there are some people that really do find this acceptable.

        Why is this sad?

        I am one of the people who do not care what cameras view me in public.

        The benefits, if everyone felt the same way, are pretty nice. I could always check out some place to see how crowded it is or who was there (or the demographics as this system tries to do). If there was any kind of problem it would be recorded later for posterity OR, if you think about it, an even COOLER ability

        • I just don't care for cameras watching me wherever I go. That's hardly a "luddite mentality."

          That said, I replied to the part of his comment that mentioned a trade off between security and privacy and was more so referring to government cameras than cameras inside private buildings. I find the former to be simply disgusting, and the latter can get annoying if every building has them.

          • I just don't care for cameras watching me wherever I go. That's hardly a "luddite mentality."

            Sure it is, because you are ignoring a fair amount of technical benefit and don't really have rational grounds for fear.

            I find the former to be simply disgusting, and the latter can get annoying if every building has them.

            There is NO DIFFERENCE. These recordings are going no-where. That's the real crime, we should all have easy access to them. In fact you should EMBRACE the government cameras because it's a lot e

            • Sure it is, because you are ignoring a fair amount of technical benefit and don't really have rational grounds for fear.

              Sorry, but I find my personal desires to be very "rational." Call it whatever you please, though. It will change nothing. As long as we're calling other people's desires irrational, I'll say the same about yours.

              There is NO DIFFERENCE. These recordings are going no-where.

              But that's just it: I don't believe the recordings should exist at all. I don't wish to live in a society where my every move in public places is recorded. Especially by the government. I do not see any benefits to this. At least not any worth the government having such a power and all the wasted ta

    • by thegarbz (1787294)

      The expectation of privacy is contextual, of course, and we each have rather firm internal rules about how it works. But often these rules are tacit even to us, so it's not easy to specify them in a way that would be generally useful. For example, is a bar a public space or a private one? See, it turns out to be both. We may go to a bar to meet people, in which aspect it's a public space. And we may also go there because it provides cover for having an intimate conversation, in which aspect it's private.

      While the expectation of privacy is contextual, the right to privacy is not. The legal standing is that when you're in a public place you have no right to privacy. I'm reminded of a photographer who did an experiment in NY recently, he went from shop to shop, restaurant to restaurant, and photographed the people inside... from the pathway. A colleague was videotaping the interactions from across the street. It's amazing the number of people who thought that someone didn't have the right to photography somet

      • The legal standing is that when you're in a public place you have no right to privacy.

        You make it sound very definitive and absolute. Bear in mind that you're describing a particular jurisdiction at a particular time. Indeed it's completely contextual.
        • by thegarbz (1787294)

          Actually in most jurisdictions isn't not contextual at all. There are a few countries which overuse the phrase "reasonable expectation" to create laws that are almost pointlessly grey in every area, but for many jurisdictions it's quite simple. Usually in public you have no right to privacy. The thing which varies most is the definition of public place, not the definition of right to privacy.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    This seems just like a different manifestation of those ID scanners that some bars have installed, though less obvious to the patrons. Or perhaps they are linking the two systems so that they can tie the image captured by their cameras to the name, address, and date of birth from the scanned ID.

    Glad I don't go to bars. :^)

    • by Baloroth (2370816)

      Or they don't do facial recognition at all, only triggering "male/female" and "going in/going out" and don't store the information beyond that, as it says in TFA had you bothered to read it.

      That is, if you believe them. But if you don't, you probably aren't the sort of person likely to go out to bars much anyways, so it doesn't really matter.

      • by epyT-R (613989)

        of course it matters when the majority accepts a new set of expectations as normal/expected... even if this guy chose never to go to a bar, this kind of carding will crop up in other places as the majority gets used to it.. eventually it will affect him.

      • by Plunky (929104)

        Or they don't do facial recognition at all, only triggering "male/female" and "going in/going out" and don't store the information beyond that, as it says in TFA had you bothered to read it.

        Heck, I didn't even read the fine summary and I know about the Facial Recognition part of it..

        So, you might say they don't do facial recognition but actually they do.. they have a digital camera feed, and it is fed to a computer which analyzes the picture, extracts faces and analyzes them some more to detect which gender

      • Or they don't do facial recognition at all, only triggering "male/female" and "going in/going out" and don't store the information beyond that, as it says in TFA had you bothered to read it.

        Which is perfectly fine. The problem is those images are arguably valuable. While the company may only use them for their intended purpose, if I come along and offer them tons of money for those images, think they'll turn me down? They're not being dishonest--they're still only triggering on those things you describe. They just don't mention what the other people are using the images for.

        But I can think of a few private investigators who would give their eye-teeth to be able to look at those pictures to

    • by Ihmhi (1206036)

      If they were done right, I wouldn't necessarily see what's wrong with ID scanners.

      I mean, sure, there's a business building a database of their customers. You know what, though? That already happens. Pay by credit and it wouldn't be all that hard to compile a list of everyone who paid by credit at a bar or club and find out about repeat business.

    • by Culture20 (968837)
      I'm sure it's being tied in. All the new rules for driver's licence photos (don't smile, remove glasses, no bangs) are there for facial recognition software, not for traffic cops.
  • by Crypto Gnome (651401) on Sunday May 20, 2012 @08:38PM (#40060391) Homepage Journal
    Bugger that or a bad nightmare.

    Just as I *refuse* to enter any bar/club which requires to scan my drivers license (no seriously, trust us we very carefully throw away all the information, it's as if you were never scanned), I would also find somewhere else to drink rather than put up with this massive invasion of my right to at least some semblance of privacy.

    Vote With Your Wallets, People.
    • by adolf (21054)

      I have always just erased the magstripe on my license using a strong permanent magnet.

      It has always worked fine, as in it both fails on their scanner, and still allows me into the venue. It does take an extra few seconds for the door gunther to actually look at my ID, and sometimes he questions why it doesn't work ("I climb radio towers for a living" makes their eyes glaze over just enough, even though that's an apples-and-oranges thing).

      Never did understand the point of scanning the magstripe, anyway. Th

    • by thegarbz (1787294)

      I would also find somewhere else to drink rather than put up with this massive invasion of my right to at least some semblance of privacy.

      Since when do you have a right to privacy in a public place?

      • by vux984 (928602)

        Since when do you have a right to privacy in a public place?

        Why does it need to be a right?

        I don't have a constitutional right to good service by the serving staff at a restaurant, but that's not reason to accept being subjected to lousy service.

        I'll find somewhere else to eat.

        Similiarly, if a restaurant decides to invade my privacy, why shouldn't I decide to eat somewhere else?

        I don't care in the slightest if the restaurant staff "see me", but I don't really want them mounting cameras at my table recording

        • by thegarbz (1787294)

          I'm not saying you don't have an expectation of privacy and I applaud you for voting with your wallet.

          I just naturally assumed that you like many people here use the exact words "right to privacy" as if you actually have some "right" to exactly that despite the fact you're in a public place.

          I agree with you wholeheartedly but for the most part we have no rights defined in law on our side.

  • Public webcams (Score:3, Interesting)

    by barv (1382797) on Sunday May 20, 2012 @08:45PM (#40060429) Journal

    Around the world (eg central London) there are cameras covering some public spaces. I would like to see the output of those taxpayer funded cameras on the www. Privacy should be a non issue. Our culture will have to change because privacy in public places has (like copyright) been destroyed by technology.

    If you want privacy, rent your own space, put it in a Faraday box and sweep it for bugs.

    Otherwise all you do by not making those images public is deprive all but the powerful, the wealthy and the hackers of the information gathered by publicly funded cameras.

    • by epyT-R (613989)

      no. .the correct answer is to not collect the damn pictures in the first place. then no one has them.

      • by barv (1382797)

        Governments have a genuine need for those "damn pictures". It is not hard to imagine scenarios for following/trace back of terrorists, violent criminals etc. We have a "hall of mirrors" situation here.

        Suppose some business competitor (or whatever) wanted to learn whether you were meeting with people to form a cartel or some such. So he sets his spy apps to scan a relevant time period and trace (using facial/movement/voice recognition technology) who you met. However you could have set a "watch for the

        • Re:Public webcams (Score:4, Insightful)

          by able1234au (995975) on Monday May 21, 2012 @01:15AM (#40061771)
          There is always a need that can be justified but can you assure yourself they will limit it to that need?

          It is good that you don't feel threatened but when you do it will be too late.

          How about they show how this information will be protected, not abused, used only for the purpose they said it was going to be used before we let them. Large companies have trouble protecting confidential info such as credit cards. What is the likelihood that a government agency or simply a private eye might get access to this info? Pretty high i would assume.

          And this information is kept forever and could be trotted out many years in the future. Do you want to be justifying what you did twenty years ago? Is it any of their business?
          • Above you said "then no one has them."

            There are lots of private webcams all over the place. In shops, parking lots and god alone (aka Tax Dept) knows where else. These are all accessible by government (subpoena as last resort). Since they are privately owned and on private property, you are unlikely to be able to access that information as a right. And I don't see any practicable way of stopping people from photographing what is going on in their own property. ("practicable" here in the same sense as

            • by Andor666 (659649)

              I don't know in your cointry, but in mine (Spain):

              You should be warned when you are being recorded or your personal information is stored on any place
              You should be told of who's the owner and responsible of the 'database' where your information or personal image is being stored
              You have the RIGHTS of accessing that database, looking for your information, correcting it and/or deleting it

              Not complying this can be severely punished

              • by barv (1382797)

                "Not complying this can be severely punished"

                Not complying with the drug laws in Indonesia or Malaya is severely punished. (by execution). It does not stop that happening.

                So if during the filming of a Rial Madrid game the TV camera takes an image of me in the grandstand, then I must be advised of the existence of that image? Or do signs outside the field carry that warning that I may be photographed?. And if somebody in the street snaps a picture or takes a video, do all the people in that picture have to

                • by Andor666 (659649)

                  LOPD law controls databases of personal information in any form: photo, video, text information...
                  https://www.agpd.es/portalwebAGPD/english_resources/regulations/common/pdfs/Ley_Orgaica_15-99_ingles.pdf [www.agpd.es] [EN]

                  It's a hard law and it's one of the best in the world regarding protection of individuals information.
                  Just in 2009 where imposed 29million euros in fines.

                  About CCTV sytems:
                  If you have a CCTV system and you are not "the police", it cannot be pointing to the streets, it only can record images of your own

                  • by barv (1382797)

                    I have read that document. It does not appear to provide any real protection, just provide a legislative framework for officials to harass innocent members of the public and tourists, while stopping anybody but government or the wealthy or foreign hackers from accessing your info.

  • It would make sense to alert potential patrons that they will be monitored in this capacity. I can imagine that a big QR-type code on the front of the building would alert not only the humans, but their smartphones or other gadgets. Perhaps you can correlate your social-networking friends with local patrons, and bring up a chat-list in your iGlasses.

    We've seen how certain types of makup and hats can foil facial recognition. I wonder if that will make the Guy Fawkes mask more popular, when people wear for an

    • There is no such thing as an 'anonymous' night on the town. YOU ARE IN PUBLIC, expect no privacy. How are you anonymous if the patrons in the bar can see you and possibly recognize you? Its not the camera you object to, its the wholesale collection of data you deem to be 'private', which really isnt. What is the difference between a camera remembering your face in a bar or the other patrons? Bars are already FESTOONED with cameras, why would they bother telling you they added a software package to their exi
      • On the contrary, while you are int explicitly private in such a setting others have noted that there is a high degree of anonymity as well as a reasonable expectation that legal actions taken will not be permanently recorded (security tapes are rotated, for example), nor will anyone outside of the people in the bar be aware of your presence.

        Though not a perfect analogy, it like the free-as-in-beer vs free-as-in-speech comparison. No, you're not alone; No, nobody is going to remember who you are or what you

        • by drewstah (110889)

          Though not a perfect analogy, it like the free-as-in-beer vs free-as-in-speech comparison. No, you're not alone; No, nobody is going to remember who you are or what you did, or even that you were there unless you make an effort to be memorable.

          Or, y'know, unless there is a recording made of your presence and activities, which is mined and stored forever.

  • by Nimey (114278) on Sunday May 20, 2012 @08:59PM (#40060499) Homepage Journal

    Oh, not that kind of facial?

  • Put the camera up in the ceiling in the corner and lower the resolution a bit.

    Farther away and slightly out of focus. You can't distinguish anyone, and just know how big the crowd is. That's what you want.

  • Such cams could be quite valuable to bar patrons. Some don't like things too crowded and some like a joint that is packed to the gills. In addition you might spot people you want to see. It also could act as a proof of where you were at any given time and that can save your life easily. Many men rotting in prison would love proof that they were not the one who did something at a certain time and place.
    • "you might spot people you want to see"

      NO.

      RTFA and you could learn that the camera breaks down the age and female, transmitting that information to the server for the mobile application.

      A video feed is NOT generated for human consumption.

    • by epyT-R (613989)

      the answer is to fix the law so that men aren't sexually discriminated against for the sake some woman's emotional whim..

    • by Anonymous Coward

      It also could act as a proof of where you were at any given time and that can save your life easily.

      Sorry, but I'm not willing to put up with cameras everywhere based on the minuscule chance that it could "save" my life. For one thing, I'm innocent until proven guilty, and that alone makes it even more unlikely that it would save my life, and for another thing, I will not accept such violations of privacy in exchange for security. End result: I won't go anywhere where these cameras are. Until they're everywhere, of course... then I'll have to wear a mask or something.

  • It is called Cans. It is know as a place to go if its getting late and you don't have a piece yet. Take that as you will.

  • Crowd: >90% full

    * Normal Women: 50% * Normal Men: 43% * Down-On-His-Luck Private Detective: 1% * Mysterious Inside Contact: 1% * Hired Goons Preparing For Ambush: 5%

  • They are fooled if you wear flowers in your hair

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