Written by Afe Iyorah
It can't be denied that surveillance is a big part of the 21st century. High definition CCTV is placed everywhere these days, from subways to street cars, from alleyways to back roads. Though the technology is rather basic – with the lens capturing footage the owner can review whenever he or she so chooses – it has still managed to be a great asset in areas like law enforcement. The question still lingers, though; what if we could take this technology to a whole other level?
Behavioural recognition systems does just that. It is a smart technology that revolutionizes the surveillance game, with the ability to detect suspicious body language and alert nearby law enforcement to criminal intent. However, there has been a long ethical debate around the world with regards to the advancement of surveillance like this and its possible implications for the security and privacy of citizens. What if this data is abused in a way that it causes more harm than good? Andrea Cavallaro weighs in with some of the possible dangers, which she says include “voyeurism and the unauthorized collection of data on activities or behaviours of an individual. There is also a risk that this kind of misuse is extended to spying on government officials or public figures.” Another news article weighs in with their opinion, with reference to the novel 1984 by George Orwell, set in a dystopia society where the government is entirely in control and infringes on the privacy of their citizens. “The North Koreans could use BRS-like systems to install a camera in every home, and literally bring about 1984. Dissidents would have no chances to escape the ubiquitous police state. What little opposition manages to sustain itself behind closed doors will die.”
These are just a handful of the opinions being discussed on the ethics of smart surveillance like BRS. Despite its advantages for security, it is clear that technology like BRS is not without its costs. Some view it as encroaching on their last fragments of freedom and privacy. Some believe it is bound to stir up legal trouble, and is a complete invasion of privacy. On the flip side, some think it is something that would benefit the world, and is a good way of keeping crime and terrorism in check. Whether thought of as an advantageous or disadvantageous asset to humanity, however, one thing does not fail to stand clear about BRS technology is its tremendous ability to put people and scholars alike at the end of opposing poles.
American Civil Liberties Union. (n.d.). Privacy and Surveillance. Retrieved from
https://www.aclu.org/issues/national-security/privacy-and-surveillanceCavallaro, A. (2007).
Privacy in Video Surveillance. In the Spotlight, 166-168. Retrieved from http://ssli.ee.washington.edu/courses/ee299/hws/hw4_files/privacy.pdf
21stcenturylocksmith. (2015, March 28). Behavioral detection software: how police are listening to you part 3. Retrieved from https://21stcenturylocksmith.wordpress.com/