Security Cameras + AI = Dawn of Non-Stop Robot Surveillance

AmiMoJo shared this post from one of the ACLU’s senior technology policy analysts about what happens when security cameras get AI upgrades:

[I]magine that all that video were being watched — that millions of security guards were monitoring them all 24/7. Imagine this army is made up of guards who don’t need to be paid, who never get bored, who never sleep, who never miss a detail, and who have total recall for everything they’ve seen. Such an army of watchers could scrutinize every person they see for signs of “suspicious” behavior. With unlimited time and attention, they could also record details about all of the people they see — their clothing, their expressions and emotions, their body language, the people they are with and how they relate to them, and their every activity and motion…

The guards won’t be human, of course — they’ll be AI agents.

Today we’re publishing a report on a $3.2 billion industry building a technology known as “video analytics,” which is starting to augment surveillance cameras around the world and has the potential to turn them into just that kind of nightmarish army of unblinking watchers…. Many or most of these technologies will be somewhere between unreliable and utterly bogus. Based on experience, however, that often won’t stop them from being deployed — and from hurting innocent people…

We are still in the early days of a revolution in computer vision, and we don’t know how AI will progress, but we need to keep in mind that progress in artificial intelligence may end up being extremely rapid. We could, in the not-so-distant future, end up living under armies of computerized watchers with intelligence at or near human levels. These AI watchers, if unchecked, are likely to proliferate in American life until they number in the billions, representing an extension of corporate and bureaucratic power into the tendrils of our lives, watching over each of us and constantly shaping our behavior… Policymakers must contend with this technology’s enormous power. They should prohibit its use for mass surveillance, narrow its deployments, and create rules to minimize abuse.

They argue that the threat is just starting to emerge. “It is as if a great surveillance machine has been growing up around us, but largely dumb and inert — and is now, in a meaningful sense, ‘waking up.'”

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