The UK's Gone Mad

By: John Honovich, Published on Oct 02, 2012

Surveillance cameras are putting human rights at risk, blares a UK government official, a UK newspaper and the venerable BBC, creating an uproar of protests online.

Unfortunately, the technical claims underlying these assertions are categorically false. The UK surveillance commissioner is either being grievously misquoted, is grossly incompetent or propagating lies to rally opposition to video surveillance.

Review of Claims

Here are the claims made and the reality of each:

Claim - Face + HD: Warns about "facial recognition systems and HD cameras are allowed to proliferate on high streets."

Reality - HD cameras and facial recognition are two entirely different things. There are millions of HD cameras already deployed in the world with 99.999% of them not using facial recognition. Facial recognition is extremely rarely used with surveillance cameras. Any criticisms of the two need to be separated.


Claim - Pick Out Half a Mile: "It's the ability to pick out your face in a crowd from a camera which is probably half a mile away."

Reality - Top of the line PTZ cameras can barely capture faces at 100 meters away with an operator manually zooming in on a person. Capturing a clear image of a face a half a mile away requires very special purpose extremely expensive cameras that are rarely used even by governments. Picking a face out in a crowd a half a mile away is far harder still.


Claim - Super Magic MP: "16-megapixel HD cameras are now very affordable, so people are buying a camera with a huge optical and digital zoom power."

Reality - No one is buying 16 MP surveillance cameras with optical zooms as the one manufacturer offering them only sells fixed cameras. Very few are even buying them at all as they are quite expensive and have limited capabilities (low frame rate, super high storage costs, no 3rd party integration, etc.). Digital zoom is a red herring and has no bearing on any camera's ability to capture images of individuals.

Get Notified of Video Surveillance Breaking News
Get Notified of Video Surveillance Breaking News

 

Claim Miracle Panoramics:"A tiny camera in a dome with a 360-degree view can capture your face in the crowd."

Reality - 360, aka panoramic cameras, can barely capture face details just 10 feet away from the camera, forget about crowds accross or down the street. These cameras max out at 5MP while looking in every direction, delivering very little image detail in any one.

 

Claim Face Rec Accuracy: "I've seen the test reviews that show there's a high success rate of picking out your face against a database of known faces."

Reality - These tests are, ironically, mostly skewed by (the few) vendors (left) pitching these offerings. And the few government tests do not factor in the operational difficulties of using it in the real world. The false matches are typically huge and the requirements for ideal lighting and direct head image capture make the systems essentially infeasible.

 

Bottom line: The use of HD cameras is growing rapidly around the world but, by itself, provides little risk to the safety or privacy of individuals. The use of facial surveillance is NOT growing rapidly and continues to suffer from major operational problems.

BBC embarrassing Report

As technologically illiterate as the UK Surveillance commissioner sounds in the Independent, the BBC's article might be worse. To justify the surge in HD surveillance, the BBC cites manufacturer figures of 129,299 HD CCTV cameras in the UK by the end of 2012 rising to over 3.7 million by 2016. First, those projections are for the world, not the UK. Secondly, those are the marketing dreams of a fringe trade organization that serious industry professionals do not believe. This projection requires a 130% CAGR for the next 4 years, which would require a miracle.

The rest of the BBC report treats regular features like mechanical cut filters, WDR, and HD resolution as if they were science fiction come to life. Unfortunately and ironically, what the BBC lacks is any credible assertion about succcessful facial surveillance vendors, which is not surprisingly considering there are essentially none of them.

Update: BSIA's Bad Response

As if things could get worse, the British Security Industry Association's technical director essentially agreed that the science fiction claims made were actually correctly. Their main defense - that only criminals should really care:

“Such accuracy in detecting and identifying known criminals should only be of concern to those who have committed a crime, and should reduce the risk of innocent people being wrongly accused or convicted of a crime.”

This is an incredibly dangerous debating tactic, especially when opponents may see this as calling them criminals and where the truth is that this cannot be done accurately and effectively anyway.

Outlook

Related Reports

Axis Live Privacy Shield Analytics Tested on Jun 25, 2019
Privacy is becoming a bigger factor in video surveillance, driven both by increased public awareness and by GDPR. Now, Axis has released Live...
IFSEC 2019 Show Report on Jun 19, 2019
The UK's largest trade show, IFSEC, is underway and IPVM has been examining what is new and happening at the show. Inside, we cover: Huawei...
Biometrics Usage Statistics 2019 on Jun 17, 2019
While face and fingerprint recognition are used regularly for smartphones, it is not as common in physical security. In this note, we examine...
OpenALPR Doubles Prices on Jun 06, 2019
There is no 'race to the bottom' in cloud / AI video surveillance. In May, Verkada increased their prices. Now, OpenALPR is doing the same with a...
IndigoVision Control Center VMS Tested on May 30, 2019
IPVM's last test of IndigoVision's VMS was in 2010, which found enterprise VMS features and a simple client interface. but no 3rd party camera...
Security / Privacy Journalist Sam Pfeifle Interview on May 24, 2019
Sam Pfeifle is best known as the outspoken former Editor of Security Systems News. After that, he was publications director at the International...
LifeSafety Power NetLink Vulnerabilities And Problematic Response on May 20, 2019
'Power supplies' are not devices that many think about when considering vulnerabilities but as more and more devices go 'online', the risks for...
Inside Look Into Scam Market Research on May 17, 2019
Scam market research has exploded over the last few years becoming the most commonly cited 'statistics' for most industries, despite there clearly...
Milestone XProtect 2019 R1 Tested on May 15, 2019
For the past few years, Milestone has released quarterly software updates XProtect VMS platform. What is new and how much impact do the updates...
11 Facial Recognition Providers Review (Secutech) on May 09, 2019
Adding to our 19 Facial Recognition Providers Profiled report from ISC West, IPVM focused on facial recognition technology for our Day 2 coverage...

Most Recent Industry Reports

HD Analog vs IP Guide on Jul 16, 2019
For years, HD resolution and single cable signal/power were IP camera advantages, with analog cameras limited to much lower resolution and...
How To Troubleshoot Wiegand Reader Problems - Inverted Wiring on Jul 16, 2019
Wiegand is the dominant method of connecting access readers, but problems can arise for installers. In fact, one of the most difficult reader...
ZeroEyes Gun Detection Startup on Jul 16, 2019
A gun detection video analytics startup, ZeroEyes, is being led by a group of 6 former Navy SEALs, aiming to "save lives" by using AI to assist...
Motorola Acquires Watchguard, Adds to Vigilant And Avigilon on Jul 15, 2019
2 years ago, Motorola had no position nor relevancy to video surveillance. Now, they own major video surveillance, LPR and body camera providers...
Hikvision Global News Reports Directory on Jul 15, 2019
Hikvision has received the most global news reporting of any video surveillance company, ever, ranging from the WSJ, the Financial Times, Reuters,...
Vivotek Trend Micro Cyber Security Camera App Tested on Jul 15, 2019
Vivotek and Trend Micro are claiming five million blocked attacks on IP cameras, with their jointly developed app for Vivotek cameras. This new...
Beware African 50,000 IP Camera Contract Scam on Jul 12, 2019
A “Nigerian Prince” scam for the video surveillance market is going around. You, or at least we, could be lucky enough to be the single bidder for...
Axis ARTPEC-7 P1375-E Camera Tested on Jul 12, 2019
Axis claims the new P1375-E box camera with ARTPEC-7 chip delivers "clear, sharp images in any lighting condition." But how well does it do? We...
Last Chance - Camera Course Summer 2019 on Jul 11, 2019
Last day to register is Thursday, July 11, 2019. This is the only independent surveillance camera course, based on in-depth product and technology...
Nortek Blue Pass Mobile Access Reader Tested on Jul 11, 2019
Nortek claims BluePass mobile readers are a 'more secure and easy to use approach to access', but our testing uncovered security problems and...

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