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Facial Recognition Cameras Peering Into Some SF Nightspots 133

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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  • by slew ( 2918 ) on Sunday May 20, 2012 @08:34PM (#40060053)

    just need some vetted moderators

    Perhaps the TSA [] 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 [].. 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 [] 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 starfishsystems ( 834319 ) on Sunday May 20, 2012 @08:55PM (#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 Crypto Gnome ( 651401 ) on Sunday May 20, 2012 @09:38PM (#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 epyT-R ( 613989 ) on Sunday May 20, 2012 @10:42PM (#40060769)

    it's not privacy by itself so much as anonymity working hand in hand with it.. it's one thing to be seen by humans at a club. it's another to be seen at a club by a network of cameras that upload your picture along with some (probably incorrect) heuristically generated stats to the internet (or worse, some marketing company's system for further analysis). sites like facebook took what was an innocuous event (friends taking pics of each other at a club) and turned it into an orwellian nightmare, not just because they make a publically accessible record of who was at the event, but because they use their own heuristics for auto-face recog. this shit DOES get abused.

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

    by able1234au ( 995975 ) on Monday May 21, 2012 @02:15AM (#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?

Matter cannot be created or destroyed, nor can it be returned without a receipt.