Let's Hear It For The Vague Blur!

Widespread video surveillance has been a great boon - well, to someone, since studies in Great Britain show that there is virtually no significant reduction in crime in heavily surveilled neighborhoods.

The real problem is finding people (enough of them!) and paying them to watch all these cameras to search for wrong-doing.

The video-analysis company 3VR has built up a database of every last license plate, vehicle and face that is encountered by video cameras in its network and sounds the alarm if it sees a suspect anywhere.

As it turns out, there seem to be people who don't like being constantly photographed every minute of their lives, and 3VR's engineers have come up with an interesting gimmick to help maintain the privacy of people who are being constantly photographed without their knowledge or consent.

This system uses the same algorithms that pick out faces and license plates; it then blurs the faces and vehicles that are not in their database of suspicious persons.

(3VR Security blur the innocent software)

Of course, if you later become a suspicious "person of interest," security guards can "unlock" your image to reveal your real, sharp-featured self under the blur.

(Scramble suit video from A Scanner Darkly)

This is a marvelously inverted perversion of Philip K. Dick's scramble suit from his 1977 novel A Scanner Darkly. In the story, a police informant could become anonymous by wearing "a superthin shroudlike membrane..." - a scramble suit.

In any case, the wearer of a scramble suit was Everyman and in every combination (up to combinations of a million and a half sub-bits) during the course of each hour. Hence, any description of him - or her - was meaningless.
(Read more about PKD's scramble suit)

In the 3VR privacy surveillance picture, everyone who is innocent becomes anonymized; only the presumed guilty have their own real identity and face.

As PKD would say, "Let's hear it for the vague blur!"

Via Wired.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 6/16/2008)

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