THERE’S WIDESPREAD CONCERN that video cameras will use facial recognition software to track our every public move. Far less remarked upon — but every bit as alarming — is the exponential expansion of “smart” video surveillance networks.
Private businesses and homes are starting to plug their cameras into police networks, and rapid advances in artificial intelligence are investing closed-circuit television, or CCTV, networks with the power for total public surveillance. In the not-so-distant future, police forces, stores, and city administrators hope to film your every move — and interpret it using video analytics.
The rise of all-seeing smart camera networks is an alarming development that threatens civil rights and liberties throughout the world. Law enforcement agencies have a long history of using surveillance against marginalized communities, and studies show surveillance chills freedom of expression — ill effects that could spread as camera networks grow larger and more sophisticated.
To understand the situation we’re facing, we have to understand the rise of the video surveillance industrial complex — its history, its power players, and its future trajectory. It begins with the proliferation of cameras for police and security, and ends with a powerful new industry imperative: complete visual surveillance of public space.
Video Management Systems and Plug-in Surveillance Networks
In their first decades of existence, CCTV cameras were low-resolution analog devices that recorded onto tapes. Businesses or city authorities deployed them to film a small area of interest. Few cameras were placed in pubic, and the power to track people was limited: If police wanted to pursue a person of interest, they had to spend hours collecting footage by foot from nearby locations.