In a previous post, we discussed the massive number of video cameras in use worldwide and their use in facial recognition applications. With as many as 106,000,000 cameras being added yearly, an article posted on Interesting Engineering predicts there will be 45 billion cameras in use by 2022.
Now consider that the world’s population is estimated at 7.7 billion as of April 2019 and that works out to about 6 cameras per person. It is already hard to escape the eyes of a camera in any area with a handful of people. According to the Interesting Engineering article, cameras outnumber residents of London 11:1! The average Londoner is captured on video about 300 times per day.
It sounds like George Orwell’s Big Brother scenario has come to pass. But where are all these cameras? All around us, as it turns out. Self-driving cars have at least eight to provide proper vision. Industrial robots have them. Smartphones are coming with more and more cameras. Trucking companies are installing cameras to monitor their drivers, supposedly to prevent accidents from falling asleep at the wheel and so forth. Smart appliances have them. Hobby robots and drones have them. They are literally everywhere.
Eyes in the sky – Gorgon Stare
Military and government agencies are making full use of video and the AI capabilities of facial recognition. A prime example of this is a system developed for the United States Air Force called Gorgon Stare. This system is designed to surveil a large area with a great deal of resolution. What are the specs?
The second phase contains 368 5-megapixel cameras cluster together and mounted on an unmanned aerial vehicle. With the accompanying software, the system can monitor 100 km2/ 39 mi2 at a time. Altogether, the array captures an image of 1.8 billion pixels and can reportedly track multiple individuals simultaneously. This system is designed for use in the global battle against terrorism.
Is it a threat or a benefit?
Most of the images captured on these billions of cameras are never seen by humans. Many are overwritten after some time to conserve storage space. So, the question becomes, “How serious a threat to individual freedom and liberty is the gigantic array of cameras?”
Like most questions involving personal freedom and anonymity, it all depends upon who you ask. For the most part, the intention behind the use of these cameras by companies, governments, and military groups is to increase safety and efficiency. Safety and efficiency in assembly and material processing, for example. Safety of the citizens of a country by finding and stopping terrorists before they can strike.
Good intentions can be subverted over time. Governments change as do corporate goals. What was once a beneficial tool in the hands of one group becomes misused by another. And there is the issue of how vulnerable this data is to bad actors hacking systems and stealing the data for their own purposes.
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