back to article One to watch: Open-source code that measures your exposure to CCTV

With an estimated billion surveillance cameras capturing people's daily activities, chances are you're regularly recorded if you live in a densely populated area. In London, for example, there are said to be 500,000 CCTV cameras and the average person is estimated to be recorded 300 times per day. To help people understand …

  1. HildyJ Silver badge
    Go

    Can't happen soon enough

    Which begs the question, how long will it be before they are ready for prime time?

    Did they speculate at all about time frames? I'm assuming it's at least a year or two, but how much longer than that might we have to wait.

    1. Version 1.0 Silver badge
      Meh

      Re: Can't happen soon enough

      There are always two sides to all these "privacy" monitoring systems ... so if this becomes used everywhere will our privacy be maintained? And for some people this will mean that if they want to have a fight or steal your wallet then the privacy protection documentation will tell them where it can be done "safely" ... so your privacy is safe where? And if your privacy is preserved, then your safety is not guaranteed.

      1. Neil Barnes Silver badge
        Holmes

        Re: Can't happen soon enough

        But your safety is by no means guaranteed even if you are being watched. Even if an incident is observed, the only difference is that it might be a little more difficult for a culprit to escape in the longer term. It's already too late for the victim if the incident is any more than grab and run.

      2. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge

        Re: Can't happen soon enough

        Mutters something about those giving up freedom for security deserving neither...

        Same thing applies to privacy, with the extension that your security still isn't guaranteed even when you've given up all privacy. You're probably worse for it.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Can't happen soon enough

          a false sense of security... like a warm blanket at night...

      3. ThatOne Silver badge

        Re: Can't happen soon enough

        > if your privacy is preserved, then your safety is not guaranteed

        Seriously, in the 21st century it takes a terminally dumb criminal to not take in account CCTV! Just wear a hoodie and a baseball cap (maybe some sunglasses too), and you're a generic silhouette, all they can infer is your approximate body type and height.

        The only cases where CCTV is really efficient is firstly when it allows to spot crime while it's committed and thus react to it immediately. But that's rare, in 90% of the cases the victim will have to go to the cops before anything happens. The second use case is to anticipate crowd movements, like protest marches and such. CCTV allows to know where the enemy is and where he's heading to, thus allowing you to better deploy your troops.

        (Didn't downvote you though.)

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
          Joke

          Re: Can't happen soon enough

          "Seriously, in the 21st century it takes a terminally dumb criminal to not take in account CCTV! Just wear a hoodie and a baseball cap (maybe some sunglasses too), and you're a generic silhouette, all they can infer is your approximate body type and height."

          So, your saying we need MORE CCTV so the culprits every move can be tracked and can be virtually followed home and identified that way?

          1. ThatOne Silver badge

            Re: Can't happen soon enough

            > So, your saying we need MORE CCTV

            No, not really. What I'm saying is that CCTV has its uses, just not in the streets. To sum up:

            - Protecting industrial buildings. If the night guard sees a silhouette skulking around at 2 am they can call the cops, no further identification needed.

            - Protecting your house. Since there usually will be nobody watching the pictures you won't be able to prevent things from happening, but at least you'll know afterwards what and how it happened. Not that you'll get your stolen goods back, but it will be easier to claim insurance.

            - For big public places and governments: Keep a tab on crowd movements.

            That about covers the serious uses.

  2. DS999 Silver badge
    Stop

    So let me get this straight..

    They're creating code that when given your position history and a DB of CCTV locations will tell you how many places you've potentially been filmed.

    How long before someone takes this open source code and uses it to create an app, that uploads your location information to the cloud to do this, and of course saves that location information for their own purposes.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: So let me get this straight..

      Your always told that your privacy is valued and protected ... yes, it's being sold.

    2. cosmodrome

      Re: So let me get this straight..

      You could easily use OSMTracker for this. It allows to share geotagged images or to upload the mentioned timestamped GPX files to OpenStreetMap and share them anonymized or not anonymized. They have been a global, non-commercial alternative to Google maps for a decade and their privacy policies are sound.

    3. Falmari Silver badge

      Re: So let me get this straight..

      @DS999 "How long before someone takes this open source code and uses it to create an app, that uploads your location information to the cloud"

      Why reinvent the wheel, we have satnav apps for that. Then again for Google, user installed apps are so old hat for getting location data. Not needed when Android uploads your location data anyway.

    4. abstract

      Re: So let me get this straight..

      You mean google?

  3. JDPower666 Silver badge

    So it just requires two data files to work, location data and a database of every cctv camera in existence, the latter of which doesn't exist, and never will.

    Anyone wanna invest in my unicorn delivery service? Haven't got any unicorns yet, but the van's all painted and ready to go.

    1. DS999 Silver badge

      and a database of every cctv camera in existence, the latter of which doesn't exist

      They probably plan to crowdsource that part. If you see a CCTV camera hidden underneath a building's awning you take a picture of it and upload it to them along with the GPS info.

      Of course the cameras you may need to really need to worry about you probably won't be able to see...

      1. JDPower666 Silver badge

        As they say, but that will never be effective as mapping even half of all cameras will never be achieved even if every person on the planet had the app. In reality only a small fraction of people will be interested, and that small fraction can never effectively report every camera in the country.

        1. DS999 Silver badge

          So it would sort of be like a similar app that measured exposure to radiation based on crowdsourced geiger counter readings, but which might miss when you pass by a house where on the other side of the thin wall is the world's largest privately owned collection of uranium glassware if no one ever checks there!

          1. JDPower666 Silver badge

            Why would you need that, just use a geiger counter. That already exists, no crowd sourcing needed.

            1. DS999 Silver badge

              Because nobody carries a Geiger counter around with them everywhere they go?

              1. JDPower666 Silver badge

                If they were interested in that data, they would. That they're not tells you that your theoretical app is also of zero value.

      2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Of course the cameras you may need to really need to worry about you probably won't be able to see...

        Such as Ring doorbells and their ilk, recommended by many Police Forces in the UK, which they would quite like you to give them access to. Those things come and go frequently. They don't all get replaced and, of course, there are many new marks customers.

    2. IGotOut Silver badge

      Take it you've never heard of Open Street Map?

      1. JDPower666 Silver badge

        Yes I have, and according to that there's no cctv cameras in my entire (large) town, nor within a 20 mile radius, including the next nearest town. Both of which have plenty of cameras.

  4. An_Old_Dog Silver badge
    Joke

    Spycams Spying on Spycams!

    Who watches the watchers?

  5. Pascal Monett Silver badge
    Windows

    "In London, for example"

    London is not an example, it is an exception.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    OpenStreetMap

    Allows tagging of CCTV cameras. That's the natural repository for such a database, short of requiring registration of cameras capturing public spaces and making that data available.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Masks

    Cheap, easy, helpful

    Anon (to display the mask)

  8. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge

    False positives

    CCTV (and all) cameras have a useful field of view where you can actually make out someone's features enough to identify them, and a useless FOV outside the useful region where people are just a few dots. The useless region can cover a much larger area than the useful region.

    Simply being able to see a camera is not really an adequate measure to understand if you've actually been recorded. And since camera FOV can vary considerably by camera model, such a broad-brush approach will lead to a lot of false positives.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: False positives

      Correct, though it's even now nuanced than that. For instance, you could be just a bunch of pixels blob in one recording but that could be correlated with another capture elsewhere that clearly identifies you and give useful information about your route / whereabouts.

  9. Caesarius
    Holmes

    BTW, what does CCTV stand for?

    It used to be Closed Circuit TeleVision, but I expect most of these cameras are linked using WiFi. We could have a competition, and I might suggest Continuous Coverage TeleVision, but most people will not even stop to think what it stands for.

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