ACLU Fooled by Vendor Propaganda

Author: John Honovich, Published on Feb 07, 2011

The ACLU's surveillance concerns are based on technology that does not work in the real world. Ironically, the ACLU is indirectly promoting technology that surveillance professionals know is little more than smoke and mirrors. The ACLU would be more accurate and helpful attacking the ineffectiveness of this technology and the wasted money spent on it.

Specifically, the ACLU's report charges that 3 technologies used in public surveillance are invasive:

  • PTZ Cameras
  • Facial Recognition
  • Automatic Tracking of Objects Across Cameras

While PTZ cameras are mature technology used by everyone, everywhere, the other two technologies do not work in public surveillance. Indeed, vendors would love that it did but even they know it does not.

Update: The City of Chicago responded, denying they use facial recognition or automatic tracking of people. This is not surprising as, even if they did, the technology would work terribly in their environment.

In pilots and small scale controlled deployments, facial recognition and automatic tracking using public surveillance cameras can be done with moderate accuracy. However, once you start dealing with lots of objects, lots of cameras and various lighting scenes - critical in public surveillance such as Chicago - accuracy problems go through the roof.

For facial recognition, in public surveillance, you need to identify a single person out of millions with an image that is routinely poor (with sharp angles of incident from the camera and lighting issues impacting quality - bright sunlight during the day, too dark at night). Even facial recognition for verification in controlled environments is still questionable and that's much much easier to do than public surveillance facial identification.

Tracking people and cars across cameras suffers from similar challenges. In a public environment, you can have dozens of people and cars moving simultaneously who 'look' very similar. They can be obstructed by larger objects like poles and buildings. The camera's view may be impacted by bright sunlight or shadows that further obscure people or cars. Sizable gaps frequently exist between camera coverage where objects can easily be lost. It's just not possible for computers to do this with any degree of accuracy at scale.

Any video surveillance professional signing on to deliver such systems would need a death wish. Indeed, it's well accepted within the industry that video analytics is still struggling to provide basic detection and cannot deliver these magical solutions.

Worse, since 9/11, governments have spent hundred of millions on video analytic systems that have not worked.

Could this technology be invasive? Sure, if they worked but that's not the problem we are faced with today in 2011.


Related Reports on Facial Recognition

Face Recognition Camera Tested (Netatmo) on Jan 29, 2016
Can face recognition make home security "better"? That is the bold claim from startup Netatmo with their Welcome camera. But with face...
Simplicam Facial Recognition Tested on Jan 23, 2015
Facial recognition, available for $150? That's the offer from a startup, Simplicam, who has not only cloned Dropcam setup and user interface but...
Japanese Stores Facial Recognition Sharing on Apr 21, 2014
A controversy is brewing in Japan after a newspaper was tipped off about a practice stores use to combat shoplifting. A network of stores uses...
Debunking Start-Up's FST21 Case Study on Oct 07, 2013
This company won ISC West Best in Show 2 years ago, recently received $5 million in funding and is being talked about as the next big thing in...
The Laziest RFP Ever on Aug 13, 2013
Bad RFPs - out of date, vague or just plain confusing - are common. But this RFP is on a whole other level. It is as if no one even looked at...
3VR Significant Layoffs on Jun 28, 2013
3VR has laid off 15 employees, five of which are from its sales team, IPVM has learned. This leaves the company with a skeleton crew of three sales...
Multi-Camera Tracking Works? on Jun 27, 2013
Being able to track people across cameras and buildings simply by using cameras and analytics is something of a 'holy grail' for the surveillance...
Future of Facial Recognition on May 04, 2013
The Boston Bombings reaffirmed how far facial recognition needs to develop to be an effective surveillance tool. Despite the PR spin jobs, facial...
FAILED: Facial Recognition & Boston Bombing on Apr 20, 2013
Facial recognition vendors have been tripping over themselves to take credit, insert or claim the wonders of their offerings to identify the Boston...
Successful Facial Surveillance Case on Jan 07, 2013
Real time facial surveillance is hard to do - accuracy issues, false alerts, cost and deployment complexity all conspire against it. This is why,...

Most Recent Industry Reports

Vivotek Favorability Results on Jan 20, 2017
Financially, Vivotek is doing relatively well. The company did ~$130 million in 2015 revenue and 2016 revenue (through Q3 reported) was up more...
PR Firm: Don't Scrap PR Spending on Jan 20, 2017
PR is not dying, warns pleads PR firm. Take 40+ year old industry PR firm LRG, who recently lamented the 'misconceptions' that: Traditional PR...
Getting Started With Your IPVM Membership on Jan 20, 2017
Here's how to get started and get the most out of your IPVM membership. Books for Members All members can download the 3 member-only books below...
Jim Cramer Sucks Up To Knightscope on Jan 19, 2017
Credit must be given to Knightscope. They are raising money right now and despite their $80 million pre-money valuation against a lowly sub $1...
ADT Launches Canopy - Professional Monitoring For DIY Devices on Jan 19, 2017
The intrusion industry has criticized DIY security systems for years, claiming systems like Canary or Scout cannot match professionally installed...
Dahua (Un)Favorability Results on Jan 19, 2017
Dahua, the mega-Chinese surveillance manufacturer not primarily owned by the Chinese government has been trying to break out of the shadow of...
Paxton Hosted Access - Disruptive Low Dealer Pricing on Jan 19, 2017
Paxton is entering the hosted access game, with BLU, at a cost that is a fraction of key competitors. The different approach could be very...
Geovision Launches Direct Cloud Offering on Jan 18, 2017
Add cloud, subtract integrator. Geovision has launched myGVcloud, an offering that allows consumers to buy cameras and cloud services directly...
Anixter / Bosch Sells Direct to Amazon on Jan 18, 2017
Anixter regularly says they do not sell direct to end users or that they do not do it anymore. However, over the past year, Anixter has sold Bosch...
Smart Power Tools For Security Installs on Jan 18, 2017
Installing a smart camera? Perhaps you should use a 'smart' drill. The intelligent appliance / IoT trend has hit power tools. In this note, we...

The world's leading video surveillance information source, IPVM provides the best reporting, testing and training for 10,000+ members globally. Dedicated to independent and objective information, we uniquely refuse any and all advertisements, sponsorship and consulting from manufacturers.

About | FAQ | Contact