We Usually think of surveillance cameras as digital eyes, watching over us or watching out for us, depending on your view. But really, they’re more like portholes: useful only when someone is looking through them. Sometimes that means a human watching live footage, usually from multiple video feeds. Most surveillance cameras are passive, however. They’re there as a deterrence, or to provide evidence if something goes wrong. Your car got stolen? Check the CCTV.
But this is changing — and fast. Artificial intelligence is giving surveillance cameras digital brains to match their eyes, letting them analyze live video with no humans necessary. This could be good news for public safety, helping police and first responders more easily spot crimes and accidents and have a range of scientific and industrial applications. But it also raises serious questions about the future of privacy and poses novel risks to social justice.
What happens when governments can track huge numbers of people using CCTV? When police can digitally tail you around a city just by uploading your mugshot into a database? Or when a biased algorithm is running on the cameras in your local mall, pinging the cops because it doesn’t like the look of a particular group of teens?