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Lip-Reading Surveillance Cameras 271

mrogers sends us to Infowars for the following news from the UK, "which is fast becoming the front line of the war on privacy": "'Read my lips..."' used to be a figurative saying. Now the British government is considering taking it literally by adding lip reading technology to some of the four million or so surveillance cameras in order identify terrorists and criminals by watching what everyone says. Perhaps the lip-reading cameras and the shouting cameras will find something to talk about."
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Lip-Reading Surveillance Cameras

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  • Solution (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Apocalypse111 ( 597674 ) on Tuesday May 01, 2007 @01:17PM (#18944245) Journal
    Quick and dirty solution: Pig Latin.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      Better solution: Paintball markers. It might be temporary, but frustrating.
    • by Xemu ( 50595 )
      Quick and dirty solution: Pig Latin.

      All they want is to identify the terrorists: Allah and Jihad are the only words the system needs to know.
      • Re:Solution (Score:5, Insightful)

        by arivanov ( 12034 ) on Tuesday May 01, 2007 @02:00PM (#18944971) Homepage
        And it will still not recognise them.

        Germans found that out in world war 2 and used it. Apparently, no matter how good you get in a language you use different lip technique from the native speakers. As a result a professional lip reader (or a deaf person trained to lip read) will pick you out right away.

        Back on the British topic. Just looking at the 7/7 and 21/7 bombers you have more than 4 different ethnic origins - Somali, Jamaican, Ethiopian and various different tribes originally from Pakistan. Each of these will be using a non-standard lip technique. While it may be possible to get some relatively low reading rate by a professional who has unlimited time to look at the tape, a real-time automated system will fail miserably right away. The only ones it will pick out will be Caucasian whites of English origin (I suspect it will fail on Scots and Welsh) who for some unbeknown to us reason have decided to discuss 7/7 instead of Chelsea vs Arsenal (that will probably be 1-2 people in the whole country anyway).
        • Or you just implement a differential test to determine which lip movement set to use for a given speaker.

          Bigger library, slightly more complex... but would still work.
          • by arivanov ( 12034 )
            This will be 20+ patterns just for people of Pakistani descent (20+ different major tribal languages from different language groups). Europe - 20+ more. Ex-Soviet union - 20+ more. That is not counting dialects which quite often affect lip technique more than differences between languages. You gotta be kidding. Just calibrating the damn system to different language groups cost hundreds of millions.
    • by Billosaur ( 927319 ) * <wgrother AT optonline DOT net> on Tuesday May 01, 2007 @01:35PM (#18944541) Journal

      Train yourself to talk like out-of-synch karate movies...

    • Re:Solution (Score:4, Funny)

      by Himring ( 646324 ) on Tuesday May 01, 2007 @01:36PM (#18944587) Homepage Journal
      atwhay teh uckfay you alkingtay aboutay?
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by yams69 ( 986130 )
      What about the masks that everyone was wearing during the SARS epidemic? I still see those in airports, so it wouldn't be too out of the ordinary.
    • I was always wondering if we would ever find a need for a language like Klingon... I think we might have found one...

      • I was always wondering if we would ever find a need for a language like Klingon... I think we might have found one...

        Oh, yeah, the CS geeks who implemented this system would never have stayed up all night to add Klingon recognition. ;)
    • OK, I admit I just wanted to use that subject line. But it does seem rather quaint that it'll be Scarface [] who winds up toppling the British Crown now.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 01, 2007 @01:18PM (#18944255)
    Until someone invents stealth technology to circumvent it. Like covering your mouth with your hand.
    • by badboy_tw2002 ( 524611 ) on Tuesday May 01, 2007 @01:21PM (#18944299)
      Ah, but then you have something to hide. And they know it and will soon be picking you up to have a chat about it. After all, if you weren't doing anything wrong, why would you care if your Big Brother knew about it? He just wants to make sure you're living a comfortable and safe existence!
      • by olego ( 899338 ) on Tuesday May 01, 2007 @01:25PM (#18944375) Homepage
        You know, I used to think that everyone who said that was being sarcastic and was merely making fun of the government... Until I watched a couple of press releases by the government and realised that these things are actually said.

        And that really freaked me out.
        • by geekoid ( 135745 )
          It's because thjey believe it.
          Hell I'm willing to give the people who want to implement the benefit of the doubt, but not the next people who will be in charge.
          Get involved.
          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by Anonymous Coward
            It's because thjey believe it.
            Hell I'm willing to give the people who want to implement the benefit of the doubt, but not the next people who will be in charge.
            Get involved.

            I am sooo cynical with your everyday people these days.

            Most folks think everyone who's arrested is guilty.

            Everyone accused of being a terrorist is a terrorist.

            If you don't do anything wrong, then you have nothing to worry about.

            Law enforcement doesn't make mistakes.

            I'm sure more can be added...

            But my point is, those of us who question

    • Until someone invents stealth technology to circumvent it. Like covering your mouth with your hand.

      just like our premier league footballers are doing now to avoid their coaches orders being lifted by the opposition during a match...

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      So How long until it becomes ILLEGAL to cover your mouth or try and talk without showing your lips?

    • Until someone invents stealth technology to circumvent it. Like covering your mouth with your hand.

      That's where my patented hand-penetrating radar comes into play.

  • by Red Flayer ( 890720 ) on Tuesday May 01, 2007 @01:21PM (#18944287) Journal

    Perhaps the lip-reading cameras and the shouting cameras will find something to talk about."
    Sure, as soon as camera manufacturers start putting realistic mechanical lips[1] on their shouting cameras.

    And as soon as that is possible, I'd like to license the technology for a venture of my own, involving about 40 lbs of latex and a metal skeleton. It'll be the best prom evar!11!
  • by rlp ( 11898 ) on Tuesday May 01, 2007 @01:21PM (#18944303)
    Just don't ask it to open the pod bay doors.
  • obvious (Score:5, Funny)

    by eclectro ( 227083 ) on Tuesday May 01, 2007 @01:21PM (#18944307)
    When the lip reading cameras come online, they will see that everyone is repeating this sequence of numbers;

    09 F9 11 02 9D 74 E3 5B D8 41 56 C5 63 56 88 C0
  • by phrostie ( 121428 ) on Tuesday May 01, 2007 @01:22PM (#18944313)
    " Rotate the Pod please HAL "
    • I mean, sure, lots of people made the connection with HAL 9000, but this post actually got the quote right. "Open the pod bay doors" came after the lipreading scene.
  • by jbeaupre ( 752124 ) on Tuesday May 01, 2007 @01:23PM (#18944329)
    You could easily defeat the system by wearing a burqa or other type of veil. Then you'll never be mistaken for a terrorist. Right?
  • That is what Britain needs, yesterday. This unwritten constitution business gives too much power to the political class, and they are obviously not above exploiting it to the max.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      Having a written constitution and a bill of rights isn't helping much on this side of the pond. The politicians have found that everything can be explained to the satisfaction of the voters by saying "interstate commerce" and "terror". Those voters who aren't sufficiently convinced are gradually pushed into lower income brackets so they'll have to spend more time at work and less time asking questions of their political leaders.

      I don't know what the solution is anymore.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Rakishi ( 759894 )
        The US is nowhere near as bad as the UK in these regards. Also do you have any idea how the US government even works, voters are irrelevant in this regard. The bill of rights and constitution do not prevent any law from getting passed. They allow the supreme court to strike down laws that they deem to not conform to them. Then again you seem to be one of those nut cases who thinks there is some grand conspiracy in place so I guess your knowledge of the US government is average for a person of such views.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          What you've described is a system which is easily defeated by flooding. You're asserting that Congress has no duty to stay within its defined boundaries and that it is the Supreme Court's job to strike down illegitimate legislation. I think the problem is obvious when there are only seven supreme court justices and over five hundred congressional members.

          But don't let the obvious prevent you from insulting me. If it makes you feel better then go ahead and do it to your heart's content.
          • You're asserting that Congress has no duty to stay within its defined boundaries and that it is the Supreme Court's job to strike down illegitimate legislation.

            No. He's asserting that the Constitution does not prevent Congress from passing laws that violate it, which is true -- just as establishing a curfew for your kids doesn't prevent them from staying out late. Congress, like a kid, will break the rules. It's up to the Court to decide if curfew has been broken. It's up to voters to punish Congress.

          • Well, the mistake was in putting all the responsibility on the Supreme Court. Any lower court can knock laws down, or change the way they must be interpreted. But in general the system works as described.

            While Congress may well have a duty to stay inside particular bounds they often overstep them in practice. The Executive branch does as well, in the event you haven't read any Slashdot articles on anything bad happening at all and noticed that sooner or later someone will blame Bush.

            And higher level Federal
            • by Rakishi ( 759894 )

              Well, the mistake was in putting all the responsibility on the Supreme Court. Any lower court can knock laws down, or change the way they must be interpreted. But in general the system works as described.
              Yeah that was a mistake on my part, I should have spent some more time thinking before posting.
        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by zrobotics ( 760688 )

          While I agree that the UK fares worse than the US in these regards, that still does not mean that there is a vast "conspiracy" afoot in the US. However, it is clear that, slowly but surely, personal liberty is gradually being suppressed in favor of security in the US. While the parent may be a tinfoil-hatter, that doesn't make his point invalid. The patriot act, guantanamo bay, warrantless wiretapping, etc. could all be called unconstitutional. So, while an unwritten constitution provides less protection th

          • I'm homeless. I can't afford a tinfoil hat.
          • by Rakishi ( 759894 )
            Of course personal rights are being eroded, I find that a sadly inherent consequence of our current society and its direction. My only point is that saying it is a conspiracy is stupid to me, if you don't identify the true reason for something then how can you fight it? I mean if its a grand conspiracy then the only solution is a civil war and anarchy. If those in power are capable of this much organization nothing else would work as they'd easily figure it out.

            On the other hand if its due to stupidity, ign
        • by symbolic ( 11752 )
          Geez...what do you call it then when administration staffers re-write a major piece of legislation the night before it's scheduled for a vote? Ah hell, they were just ACTing on behalf of their PATRIOTic leader, I guess. Sadly, this is marks only the start of a series of end-runs around something that actually does the Constitution, maybe? Remember - the president is sworn to uphold it, not subject it to gradual deconstruction through self-righteous power grabs.
    • by geekoid ( 135745 )
      well, there is always revolution.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by digitig ( 1056110 )

        well, there is always revolution.
        As any engineer can tell you, one revolution always gets you back to where you started.
  • What about Jennicam?
  • This sort of thing was not acceptable even in Soviet Russia. When government included "free" wires radios in apartments where the internet KGB could listen, people would not put up with that BS. But sadly, people will probably do NOTHING in the UK to counter this *literally* 1984 (the book) ideas.

    In Soviet Russia, radios listened to people and people got pissed off. In UK, they would just roll over and do nothing. Sad but true from recent examples.

  • "Fuck you, I'm a terrorist." This single is rising fast on the charts and is on everybodies lips.

  • Market Prediction (Score:2, Insightful)

    by TheCreeep ( 794716 )
    Expect the sales of scarfs in Britain to soar.
    • Expect the sales of scarfs in Britain to soar.
      With our weather, everybody has at least one already.
  • by happyfrogcow ( 708359 ) on Tuesday May 01, 2007 @01:32PM (#18944505)
    Let's just hope it runs on Vista so we can tell it to shut itself off

  • Dave, although you took thorough precautions in the pod against my hearing you, I could see your lips move.
  • A real reason to grow that combination push broom/handle bar moustache [] I've been waiting for!!
  • Be very afraid (Score:3, Insightful)

    by boyfaceddog ( 788041 ) on Tuesday May 01, 2007 @01:35PM (#18944545) Journal
    The odds against something like this working ar astronomical.
    The odds against it being used in court (or worse, being used to "detain" someone) are just about even.

    That means some poor schmuck will end up sitting in a detention cell for a decade or so because he shouted for something and the lipreaders thought he said 'bomb'.
  • Since all terrorists have a beard and speak Arabic, the algorithms used in these cameras must really be state of the art.
  • ...that this is happening, in the country I live in and the scary thing is that everyone here thinks this is just fine and normal.........
  • Oh no! (Score:2, Funny)

    by akheron01 ( 637033 )
    Oh no! Now I won't be able to say 09 F9 11 02 9D 74 E3 5B D8 41 56 C5 63 56 88 C0 in public without fear of retribution!
  • Oh boy... I would like to see this working on East London... "Know what'a'meeeaaan?"

  • by Bazman ( 4849 )
    Police arrest hundreds of tourists...
  • I know fear is a powerful stimulant, but the British seem to be willing to do anything to monitor people, what is the motivation?
  • by Cro Magnon ( 467622 ) on Tuesday May 01, 2007 @01:48PM (#18944793) Homepage Journal
    it won't work against politicians, because they talk out of their asses, not their mouth.
  • Free Speech (Score:5, Insightful)

    by quantaman ( 517394 ) on Tuesday May 01, 2007 @01:52PM (#18944853)
    I could see something like this having a very chilling effect of free speech.

    Think if you've ever complained about the police when talking when a friend, now think if you'd still complaining as loudly if a police officer was within earshot.

    This doesn't even have to work, a lot of people walking down the street are still going to feel nervous saying bad things about Big Brother if they feel Big Brother is actually listening.
  • by Flying pig ( 925874 ) on Tuesday May 01, 2007 @02:02PM (#18945001)
    In the US you have endless proposals for blue sky research projects that "might" in 20 years or so lead to something that "might" have a military application. Didn't the DoD even spend money on psychics not so long ago?

    Here we don't have big slush funds. (The Govt. can endlessly waste public money on hopeless IT projects, but that's different.) So University lecturers, especially ones from not terribly good universities (have you ever been to Norwich? Don't.), have to try and invent other ways to get funding. Since the Govt. is obsessed with finding terrorists before they manage to get the gunpowder under Parliament again, one way to get funding for a visual recognition project is to suggest it can be used for lipreading terrorists in shopping centres. Of course it won't work, but hopefully by then the guy will have written a few papers and moved a bit up the academic pecking order. And good luck to him. British Government policy with universities basically involves being nice to Oxford, Cambridge, Imperial and UCL and stuff the rest. (No, I'm not bitter. My family has degress from 3 of the 4. But I do recognise that it's not a good or fair system)

  • Perhaps the most interesting and disturbing development in surveillance is gait detection systems []. While a disguise will prevent facial recognition from working, and not saying anything will prevent lip reading from doing its job, there are systems being tested and deployed that can identify an individual by the way they walk (their gait). There are so many ways to positively identify people that implantable chips won't be necessary before long [].
    • by bkr1_2k ( 237627 )
      And anyone can fake a limp. Especially one that changes every few blocks so they can't easily be "spotted" by their gait. It's another fruitless effort for "security" that will do nothing except take away your rights.
  • It's a scam (Score:4, Interesting)

    by DeafScribe ( 639721 ) on Tuesday May 01, 2007 @02:11PM (#18945173) Homepage
    If the UK goes forward with this scheme, they're getting scammed. I know, from research and real-world experience with people with intensive speech-reading training, that lipreading will yield, at most, about 25% of speech. There are simply too many words that look alike or resist analysis to grasp more than that. You can fill in some of the blanks by the situational context, body language and residual hearing, if there is any. But frankly I see this as an effort to take advantage of gullible government agencies by touting a gee-whiz technological solution that won't work.
    • Re:It's a scam (Score:5, Insightful)

      by techno-vampire ( 666512 ) on Tuesday May 01, 2007 @02:29PM (#18945451) Homepage
      I've some hearing loss, and recently took a series of classes on coping with it. Part of it was experimenting with lip reading. Not only do many words look similar, letters formed mostly with the tongue look identical. Look in the mirror, sometime, and say the letters t, c, g and z, and try to tell which one is which. You can't. Now, imagine security droids looking at what the computer thinks somebody is saying and taking it as the literal truth because, as we all know, computers never lie. Be afraid. Be very afraid.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      I know, from research and real-world experience with people with intensive speech-reading training, that lipreading will yield, at most, about 25% of speech.

      I know someone who is deaf and who is a Japanese/American linguistics student. They say that many languages are impossible to lip-read, including Japanese.

      And by 'impossible' they do mean 'not possible', as in there is no way to tell from the movements of the mouth what the person is saying.
  • Not only will all of these systems rack up costs in implementation, but imagine the administrative and logistical nightmare. Forgetting maintenance (hardward and software) and all, the investment in manpower will be a nightmare. Who is going to respond to what situation? What deems a situation? What requires sirens, what doesnt? How do you handle the situation... automatic detention pending investigation? Who do I sue when I spend a night in jail for telling my friend I want to blow up my car because it has
  • Will they wait until you are identified as a terrorist and then "switch on the lip-reading feature? Will they have it store all readings on the fly and then go back to analyze them once something bad has happened? Will they "mine" this data on the fly looking for key phrases as they are spoken by some would-be criminal looking at the camera (James Bond style)? Or will they simply use such recognition tech after the fact when viewing or reviewing selected portions of video?

    My money would be on the latter
  • listening outposts up in their citizens' butts. A ministry of internal affairs spokesman said that it was a surefire way to know what passes inside citizens' personal worlds. Spokesman dismissed allegations about the method invading citizens' privacy as being "Ridiculous".
  • by Virak ( 897071 ) on Tuesday May 01, 2007 @02:20PM (#18945307) Homepage
    Nothing quite says "we're watching you" like a camera that actually says "we're watching you".
    1. I'd be willing to bet a lot of money these lip-reading cameras don't speak Arabic. Yes, I know, not all terrorists are Arabs, but enough terrorists are Arabs that they are going to miss out on a ton.
    2. Won't be able to determine tone of voice. How can you tell if I'm saying "Let's bomb Buckingham palace!" or "<sarcasm>Let's bomb Buckingham palace!&lt/sarcasm>"?
    3. Lip reading is damn hard. Look in a mirror. Say, "All of you." Now say, "I love you." The meaning couldn't be more different... Coul
  • by Miseph ( 979059 ) on Tuesday May 01, 2007 @02:27PM (#18945425) Journal
    So, who, exactly, has an expectation of privacy when they're in public? Yeah, yeah, surveillance bad, privacy good, rah rah rah, but seriously, if you don't want your business to be public, then keep it in private.

    Either that, or talk about incredibly private things that are virtually guaranteed to make whatever poor schlub is reading the transcripts incredibly uncomfortable. Or say things that are so unbelievably suspicious that they'll have no choice to investigate, and when it turns out to be complete fabrication remind them it was their ill-conceived idea to read your lips in the first place.
  • This must be more of a scare tactic than anything else. We all know facial recognition is less than perfect and have seen several tests in public places fail to recognize any bad guys. I have to believe lip reading is much more difficult that facial recognition. Therefore, this should be totally ineffective for the next decade or two.

    If the systems doesn't work, then does it really matter?
  • ventriloquism.

    It'll be the new thing. All those kids that got their asses kicked in grade school will now be heros.
  • Infowar == kookery (Score:5, Informative)

    by Bogtha ( 906264 ) on Tuesday May 01, 2007 @02:50PM (#18945829)

    Please, why are you linking to kooks like Infowar? Here is the original article [], which they conveniently don't link to. Compare and contrast. Infowar:

    Imagine a place where if you say something considered by the authorities to be suspicious a team of agents is dispatched to your location to detain and question you.

    Of course, the lip reading technology isn't even in existence yet, let alone any kind of government plan to use it or secret police squad. From the original article:

    Richard Harvey, a senior lecturer in computer vision at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, England, is embarking on a three-year project that will collect lip-reading data.

    It's just hype to promote a new research project. Infowar seeks out anything that can possibly be used for bad purposes, and spins it out of all recognition. It's a site run by a paranoid kook, not a legitimate news source.

Long computations which yield zero are probably all for naught.