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Preliminary Results of Expert Survey

As part of the Being Watched research project, we have invited experts in law, technology, and public policy, civil rights advocates, as well as local government representatives to participate in our Delphi survey. In this post, we share some of the preliminary results based on the data we have gathered so far, hoping both to stimulate conversations among the participants and to encourage more experts to contribute to our survey. The following is a summary of responses to some of the key questions.

Q: What are the two most important issues local government should take into account when passing an ordinance that regulates public camera systems?

The most frequently mentioned issues are data (access, use, retention), transparency, and privacy. Other issues include accountability, police access, use of AI, racial equity, functionality, safety, and cost-effectiveness.

Q: What are the primary risks of implementing public camera systems?

The most frequently mentioned risks are abuse/misuse, privacy violation, and police access. Other risks include high costs, facial recognition technology, lack of public trust, racial inequity, damage to freedom of expression, cybersecurity, and other unintended consequences.

Q: What are the primary benefits of implementing public camera systems?

The most frequently mentioned benefits are increased safety, better situational awareness, and improved emergency response. Other benefits include crime surveillance & deterrence, data collection, efficiency, traffic & crowd control, curbside management, and friction reduction between local governments and the public.

Q: What skills should be required of staff working with public camera systems?

The most frequently mentioned factor is staff training in terms of privacy, appropriate use & storage, cybersecurity (e.g., hacking), legal frameworks, data analysis, and emergency response. Other factors include accountability (in case of misconduct), activity log, security clearance, and audit.

Q: When asked whether a list of technical capabilities should be included in the public camera systems, our expert respond: yes, no, maybe, or unfamiliar. Here are the top results for each response category.

Yes

  • Pedestrian and vehicle counting
  • Tamper detection
  • Speed detection
  • PTZ (pan/tilt/zoom)
  • Remote access & cloud backup

No

  • Facial recognition
  • Biometrics
  • Speakers
  • Automated number plate recognition
  • Vehicle type recognition
  • Gunshot spotting
  • Automatic ticket-issuing systems

Maybe

  • Local storage
  • Sound recording
  • Automatic ticket-issuing systems
  • POE (power over ethernet)
  • Speakers
  • Thermal imaging
  • High-definition video
  • Wireless connection

Unfamiliar

  • Edge recording & edge computing
  • POE (power over ethernet)
  • Motion sensing

Do you agree or disagree with our participants? Either way, we would love to hear your comments! Please use the link below to participate in our survey!

https://utexas.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_8v9ZsiUXMIbRZxc

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Societal and ethical implications of monitoring cameras deployed in public settings

As more cities deploy monitoring and sensing technologies, cameras are in the front lines of data-gathering in traffic, policing, and health and safety.  However, there are no commonly accepted standards for using the data these technologies provide, leading to concerns about government monitoring, especially as AI and analytics applied to video become more pervasive. Camera improvements, AI, and machine language  processing may mean better capabilities to achieve citizen safety, transit benefits, and so forth, but they also raise thorny issues of intellectual property, privacy and civil liability, among others.

In this respect, we examine the practical, theoretical and policy implications of public sector-deployed cameras, especially video cameras, in the context of ethical decision-making. The core components of the project include an examination of municipal policies and practices in the US around the use of cameras, particularly video cameras. We also investigate comparative policies around the creation and use of video data in the public sector. 

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