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Home > News > Company News > Comment: We need to talk about.....

Comment: We need to talk about camera-net surveillance

  • Author:Ella Cai
  • Release on:2017-09-07
AI-enabled surveillance technology will inevitably be developed, so we must not delay preparations for its control.

There is no doubt that the industry needs to have a discussion about surveillance.

In a recent film called The Circle; a social media guru played by Tom Hanks demonstrated how tiny wirelessly‑connected cameras with AI-like data processing could proliferate like topsy and change society.

What is, on the face of it, a piece of populist science fiction, may not be all that far-fetched.

Combine a digital camera with a wireless connection to the internet and instantly it becomes part of a surveillance network with global reach and AI-like visual recognition capabilities in the cloud. We know this as just one aspect of the internet of things.

It is happening already, but only with small steps.

There is some way to go before we get to the Tom Hanks vision. But I do not doubt that the technology and systems suppliers will get there. And when they do the industry – and society itself – will need to deal with an enormous number of personal privacy concerns.

Of this there is no doubt, so now would be a good time to start the discussion.

Tiny, wirelessly-connected cameras could potentially be attached to walls, cars, trees – anywhere. They will be powered by energy harvesters and may even have integrated data processing.

Easy to deploy and low‑cost, they could be used to create unprecedented video pictures of city streets, airports and motorways. In fact, those places that we now want to be protected from terrorist attacks.

The privacy issues this raises are clear. But if we add AI, the game changes.

Surveillance technology

As well as adding recognition capabilities to the pictures, AI will have the potential to map out behavioural patterns, even one day being able to provide a predictive capability to the surveillance.

The power of this for the law enforcement agencies is enormous. But so are the privacy concerns. Any discussion must involve changes to privacy laws.

Of course, make these camera-nets cheap enough and anyone can use them. So camera-nets will have to be policed and new laws on their use applied. Even when used professionally by network operators and law enforcement agencies, legislation must be tightened to prevent any misuse of data.

I suspect it will be difficult to have water-tight rules governing camera-nets, and it is inevitable that the “big brother” fears of many of us in society will remain.

But I also believe that the potential for this technology to help prevent terrorist atrocities such as those we have seen in London, Paris and Barcelona will make it too important not to be used.

In any case, we should not shy away from having the surveillance conversation.