Balancing Security and Privacy Using 4G LTE Enabled Video Surveillance

Next Generation Communications Blog

Balancing Security and Privacy Using 4G LTE Enabled Video Surveillance

By Mae Kowalke

When it comes to public safety, how much oversight and surveillance is enough, and how much is too much? Where do you draw the line between safety and invasion of privacy? These are questions policymakers and law enforcement officials struggle with every day. There are usually no easy answers.

A good starting point is to look at the role technologies like video surveillance can play in public safety, and what applications such technologies are most effective for particularly for providing an adequate degree of situational awareness.

Video surveillance is very prevalent in the U.K. where the typical person is recorded 20 times a day.  It is gaining ground in the U.S. where post-9/11 has made people feel less safe and created a desire to have their “guardians” always watching in public spaces. However, omnipresence for the sake of security has a price. It does invade personal privacy. 

This concern has only grown as sophisticated video and network technologies like 4G LTE— which is increasingly the technology of choice for massively deployed machine-to-machine (M2M) monitoring solutions— enable video can be not just automatically captured but also quickly analyzed to, for example, use facial recognition to ID a person or check a license plate against records in a database.

In a recent article in Alcatel-Lucent’s LifeTalk e-zine, “Video Surveillance: Balancing Security and Privacy, Capability and Cost,” author Andreas Olligschlaeger, Ph.D., President, TruNorth Data Systems notes that, “Privacy advocates complain these systems can be used to track the comings and goings of citizens with no connection to crime, and have concerns about how this data will be used.” He goes on to say that, “Privacy is less of a concern in Europe, where surveillance systems have been in use longer and personal privacy is constitutionally guaranteed.”

The facts are that video surveillance can and should play a part in public safety.  It is proven to be a valuable tool that helps law enforcement officials do their jobs more effectively.  That said, public safety officials also like to say it is only a part of a holistic approach and it cannot replace human judgment, and is obviously most effective when paired with human monitoring and decision-making.

“Video monitoring probably doesn’t do much to prevent crime, although it can be helpful in investigating, solving and prosecuting crimes…Key to this issue is the need to have human monitors watching the video output,” Olligschlaeger says.

Even the most sophisticated license plate or facial recognition system isn’t designed to sound an alarm if a criminal snatches someone’s purse or hits someone over the head with a beer bottle.

However, video surveillance systems—which take the closed circuit TV (CCTV) concept to a new level—are becoming more popular in the U.S. and in developing countries alike, in part because of lower cost made possible by wireless broadband growth. It’s easier than ever to balance capabilities with cost.

“Wireless networks eliminate the need to run coaxial cable to camera installations, and the smaller cameras reduce power requirements,” notes Olligschlaeger. “Now, a camera and transmitter can run for days or weeks on a battery, and may be able to recharge via a solar collector.”

Such video surveillance systems enable users to set up monitoring on demand, a feature made popular by social media trends like flash mobs. Flash mobs can be entertaining for a global audience if streamed live or published afterward on the web (which they often are, using smartphones and social media networks) but can also cause problems.

“Flash mobs can have a dark side, too,” Olligschlaeger points out. “One flash mob raided a convenience store in Maryland, with thieves running inside to steal merchandise off of the shelves, protected by the anonymity of the crowd. Another flash mob attacked people leaving the Wisconsin State Fair, knocking people to the ground and stealing personal belongings.”

It’s clear that video surveillance is here to stay, and has its place in the arena of public safety.  However, it is also clear that striking the right balance as to how much security, when \, where why and how has been and increasingly will be a challenge for the officials charged with keeping us safe.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Featured Events