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Monday
Dec172007

Popular Mechanic’s Panopticon

This month’s Popular Mechanics features a video camera on its cover and asks the question as to whether our “surveillance society” has gone too far.

James Vlahos, writes:


We have arrived at a unique moment in the history of surveillance. The price of both megapixels and gigabytes has plummeted, making it possible to collect a previously unimaginable quantity and quality of data. Advances in processing power and software, meanwhile, are beginning to allow computers to surmount the greatest limitation of traditional surveillance—the ability of eyeballs to effectively observe the activity on dozens of video screens simultaneously. Computers can't do all the work by themselves, but they can expand the capabilities of humans exponentially.


I think Vlahos does a pretty interesting job exploring both the benefits and pitfalls of some of our nation’s security initiatives and new technologies…and I am not just saying that because of his mention of my company, 3VR Security.

Here is what he had to say about us though:

Used by banks, hotels and retail stores, 3VR’s “searchable surveillance” systems automatically create a template of every face that passes in front of security cameras (it caught our author here at a Chicago hotel check-in counter). The system creates a mathematical model based on the geometry of each person’s face that can be compared to a central list of known suspects for instant alerts. The technology can also automatically log events based on an automated object recognition analysis of an entire scene—for example, Frank Jones met with Doris Meeker at 12:45 pm; Meeker arrived in a blue sedan. Because all events are cataloged, several months’ worth of data can be analyzed in minutes.
One point Vlahos doesn’t make in his article, however, relates to the dual-benefit of many of these new surveillance technologies. While traditional security approaches are not particularly effective or conducive to privacy, new more effective technologies don’t necessary bring with them even greater privacy issues. For instance, the use of search engines and video analysis greatly increases the chance of catching bad guys before they strike. But, these same technologies can be used to help audit surveillance monitoring efforts and generally limit their abuse, as well.
Saturday
Dec152007

Hollywood’s New Look

It seems that video surveillance has become so prevalent that even movie producers are depicting life from the eye of the camera. Whether this is a hit or a flop doesn't really matter--the film itself is a statement of how pervasive cameras have become.



Movie director Adam Rifkin poses in New York, Monday Oct. 29 , 2007. His new film "Look," was created entirely from the perspective of surveillance cameras. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)
Thursday
Dec132007

Look!

The new trailer is out:

Thursday
Dec132007

It all comes down to trust...and technology

Mayor Bloomberg’s plan to implement a London-style congestion based traffic pricing system has been getting a lot of criticism from privacy advocates recently. Chris Dunn and Donna Lieberman’s piece in the NY Daily News today is no exception:
So far, public debate about Mayor Bloomberg's congestion-pricing proposal has focused on issues like the specific boundaries of a congestion-pricing zone, the fees drivers will pay, the impact on mass transit and how much congestion pricing will actually reduce traffic congestion. Lost in this discussion has been the fact that implementation of congestion pricing could involve the creation of a massive system of surveillance cameras. Like the program already in place in London, the congestion-pricing plan being considered here would use cameras to read and record the license plate of every car, truck and motorcycle entering or leaving the congestion-pricing zone, as well as of many vehicles traveling inside the zone. The system then would match that license plate information against a database of vehicle owners to bill drivers the congestion-pricing fee. This type of plan raises enormous privacy concerns.

While it’s true that over 70% of American’s state a willingness to endure privacy invasion and surveillance as part of efforts to fight crime and save lives, traffic enforcement efforts using the same technologies aren’t nearly so popular. That’s Bloomberg’s problem. His “surveillance” cameras aren’t REALLY for general surveillance. Instead, they are specialized high-speed cameras zoomed in to focus on the license plates of Manhattan traffic. And while they’ll do an excellent job tracking the daily movements of NY commuters, they will do very little to deter crime in the areas they are deployed.
Wednesday
Dec052007

Cameras, Cameras Everywhere: Uganda Edition

Police in Entebbe and Kampala had to defend themselves recently against accusations that the municipal CCTV system crashed just before a visit from the Queen. Quite the scandal, the purported failure drew the attention of civic leaders and the press.

http://allafrica.com/stories/200712060082.html

Journalists were also shown footage captured during the Queen's arrival in Kampala. The system has 50 surveillance cameras installed by Ssekanyolya Systems in Kampala and Entebbe. The control centre has three giant monitors, which are partitioned to show footage from the cameras. There are also 11 computer units that officials use to analyze the footage.

After proving the systems operational status during the Queens visit, police officials shared some thoughts on the future of CCTV in their country.
Flanked by acting commissioner for communications, Paul Nasimolo, Kasingye said the cameras were meant to boost the other methods of deterring crime. "We are in an era where technology can be used to investigate and deter crime. Gone are the days when you had to deploy hundreds of Police officers in an area."

Welcome the new Uganda.