Face-blurring technology raises privacy questions
by Paul Marks - New Scientist Jan. 31, 2009
Perhaps we need to let our elected representatives know that 1984 was a work of fiction, not a planning guidebook for the future -- Ed.
SHOULD we modify our conception of privacy thanks to the seemingly unstoppable spread of CCTV surveillance networks? Jack Brassil thinks so. He's a computer scientist at Hewlett-Packard's laboratory in Princeton, New Jersey, who is testing a technology called Cloak that aims to limit the extent of privacy invasions. "Rather than prohibit surveillance, our system seeks to discourage surveillers distributing video without the authorisation of the surveilled," he says.
Cloak has two key requirements. First, CCTV users, such as municipal councils and businesses, would have to sign up to a system that electronically obscures the faces of people who do not want their pictures to be published in video footage that is passed to others. The list of such people would be akin to the national "do-not-dial" lists designed to prevent cold-calling, Brassil says.
Second, the person opting in to Cloak needs to carry a "privacy enabling device" - most conveniently a phone with GPS capability. This wirelessly beams the user's position and velocity to a central server which forwards the data to the CCTV's control centre. Image processing software then uses the subject's trajectory to identify and obscure their face in the CCTV footage if it is to be distributed. In Hewlett-Packard's simulations, the technology is workable, even in dense crowds....[Read More]