Companies Developing Crowd Analysis Programs To Detect 'Abnormalities' In Behavior And Match Faces Against Giant Databases

from the watching-over-you dept

One of the reasons that the total surveillance programs of the NSA and GCHQ are possible is that computers continue to become more powerful and cheaper, allowing ever-more complex analyses to be conducted, including those that were simply not feasible before. Here's another example of the kind of large-scale monitoring that is now possible, as reported by Nikkei Asian Review:

NEC announced that it has developed the world's first crowd behavior analysis technology. Based on the simulated behavioral patterns exhibited by people in emergencies, the system is designed to detect any abnormalities in the behavior of congested public places.
This is very similar to an EU-funded project called "INDECT":
The primary objective is to develop advanced and innovative algorithms for human decision support in combating terrorism and other criminal activities, such as human trafficking, child pornography, detection of dangerous situations (e.g. robberies) and the use of dangerous objects (e.g. knives or guns) in public spaces. Efficient tools for dealing with such situations are crucial to ensuring the safety of citizens.
Like INDECT, the key justification for the NEC surveillance system is to "prevent crimes and terrorist attacks". Another Japanese company is also exploiting the immense power of computer systems to offer blanket surveillance:
Hitachi Kokusai Electric began marketing a new surveillance system that can search and identify a target individual by using an enormous volume of recorded footage from surveillance cameras. The company extracts facial features of individuals -- including profile shape, eye size and the shape of a nose bridge -- and stores them in a database. The system can then compare the features of the person in question against this data. It can complete the search within one second using a database of 36 million faces.

This search technology could be used to quickly identify terrorists in public places. The company said the system could register faces of up to 7 billion people if 50 servers are linked up.
In other words, the claim is that this system could scale up to store facial features of the entire world. And it's not just the Japanese who will be making money from spying on you:
EMC of the U.S., a leading information-technology storage hardware provider, has developed a surveillance system that uses external storage technology. The system can hold data of up to 20 petabytes by linking up as many as 144 storage devices. This is enough to store 13 years of continuous footage from 100 cameras.
What's truly frightening about all these systems is that this is just the beginning. As computers become faster, and storage cheaper, it's easy to imagine the output from every surveillance device on the planet being stored forever, and constantly re-analyzed to find those awkward "abnormalities", AKA individuals...

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Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

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    ethorad (profile), Dec 5th, 2013 @ 12:29am

    The primary objective is ... combating terrorism and other criminal activities, such as human trafficking, child pornography, detection of dangerous situations (e.g. robberies) and the use of dangerous objects (e.g. knives or guns) in public spaces

    OK, I'll give you that cameras, or people, watching could spot things like robberies, mugging, weapons. By watching behaviour it's possible to spot unusual activity such as people about to commit suicide, or presumably someone being kidnapped or trafficked.

    However "child pornography ... in public spaces". Really? Is there much child pornography going on in public spaces? I doubt there's that much going on in the public internet (probably mostly on private networks), so I really doubt there's much going on in railway stations, plazas, etc around the world.

    Yet another "but think of the children!"

     

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    That Anonymous Coward (profile), Dec 5th, 2013 @ 12:44am

    "designed to detect any abnormalities in the behavior"

    Is this the same thinking that leads police to say a suspect didn't respond how we expected upon getting tragic news?

    Being an outlier will now be reason for even more... wait what am I saying. We are all being spied on pretty much constantly now, how are we to notice if someone is getting extra scrutiny?

     

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    Ninja (profile), Dec 5th, 2013 @ 1:13am

    Efficient tools for dealing with such situations are crucial to ensuring the safety of citizens.

    Or maybe we could prevent such situations from happening by having Governments that are truly democratic and don't act in their own interests, provide people with what they need and don't try to deeply interfere with other nations?

     

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    That One Guy (profile), Dec 5th, 2013 @ 2:10am

    So, I wonder how long it will take from the installation of such a surveillance system for the whole 'flash mobs' thing to come back into popularity, as people have fun pranking the system with false positives?

     

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 5th, 2013 @ 3:10am

    Efficient tools for dealing with such situations are crucial to ensuring the safety of citizens.

    Someone a remote location being notified by an algorithm at will do less for child safety than a visible police officer. They may be able to say, 'oh look.that child is being kidnapped', but they will not be able to prevent it. By the time they get hold of a dispatcher, who then notifies a police officer, it may well be too late.

     

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    identicon
    alternatives(), Dec 5th, 2013 @ 3:32am

    Great - now how do *I* get access?

    Because I'd like to use these pictures sources in an "art project".

     

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  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 5th, 2013 @ 4:02am

    what is really odd

    is how Techdirt can be so out of date, and apparently unable to keep up with TECHNOLOGY!

    This has only been around for the past 20 years or so, and TD has only just caught up?

     

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    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Dec 5th, 2013 @ 6:23am

      Re: what is really odd

      Could you be a bit more nebulous? The wealth of details peppered throughout your comment are a bit overwhelming.

       

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      That One Guy (profile), Dec 5th, 2013 @ 8:12am

      Re: what is really odd

      Could you be any more transparent?

      'Stop looking behind the curtain! I said stop looking there!'

       

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 5th, 2013 @ 4:05am

    Facecrime

    "It was terribly dangerous to let your thoughts wander when you were in any public place or within range of a telescreen. The smallest thing could give you away. A nervous tic, an unconscious look of anxiety, a habit of muttering to yourself -- anything that carried with it the suggestion of abnormality, of having something to hide. In any case, to wear an improper expression on your face (to look incredulous when a victory was announced, for example) was itself a punishable offence. There was even a word for it in Newspeak: facecrime, it was called." -- 1984

     

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      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Dec 5th, 2013 @ 6:22am

      Re: Facecrime

      Glad I'm not the only one who immediately thought of this.

       

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      That One Guy (profile), Dec 5th, 2013 @ 7:21am

      Re: Facecrime

      Nailed it.

      You know, I'd ask if the politicians pushing this crap on the public had ever read that book, but I've got the strangest suspicion that they've not only read it, but they liked the world presented in it so much they've been intentionally trying to bring it to life.

       

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      The Real Michael, Dec 5th, 2013 @ 8:48am

      Re: Facecrime

      1984 is proving to be prophetic in more ways than one. Not only is the public monitoring becoming reality but the US has even begun shifting its focus away from the Middle East and towards Asia. "We've always been at war with Eastasia."

      Creepy.

       

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      Nastybutler77 (profile), Dec 5th, 2013 @ 10:21am

      Re: Facecrime

      The distopian future is here! Only 30 years late...

       

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      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Dec 6th, 2013 @ 5:07pm

      Re: Facecrime

      Over here in EUroland we have been forced to submit quite an extensive amount of biometrics in order to get a passport from "our" governments. We now know what the 3D image of our respective faces will be used for at some time in the future.

       

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 5th, 2013 @ 4:15am

    Just buy the most sold costume you can find, Master Chief, Iron Man or Snoopy?

    Do costumes have air conditioner?

     

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 5th, 2013 @ 4:50am

    "One of the reasons that the total surveillance programs of the NSA and GCHQ are possible is that computers continue to become more powerful and cheaper, allowing ever-more complex analyses to be conducted, including those that were simply not feasible before"


    And what do they do with this new found capability?
    Find a cure for cancer?
    Find ways to end pollution?
    ......
    Nah! - let's use it to spy on everyone. Yeah, that's the best use evaaaaar.

     

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    The Real Michael, Dec 5th, 2013 @ 5:23am

    You know they're full of it when they claim this is an effective tool without having even used it. The "for the public safety" refrain is complete BS; this is all about empowering the state to treat society like an ant farm.

    Someday people will look back upon the days before all this intrusive technology, government snooping and the perpetual wars on *insert enemy* with fondness and yearning.

     

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    Pragmatic, Dec 5th, 2013 @ 5:57am

    Am I the only one to ask which social/religious/ethnic group will be held up to particular scrutiny? Hint: not "criminals," per se.

    Forced conformity is upon us. We're getting to the stage where all hopes of living unmolested rest on being as average in appearance and behavior as possible. Is this what we want?

     

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    silverscarcat (profile), Dec 5th, 2013 @ 5:59am

    Well...

    Time to invest in clothing that makes you invisible to cameras.

     

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    Richard (profile), Dec 5th, 2013 @ 6:43am

    "designed to detect any abnormalities in the behavior"

    designed to detect any abnormalities in the behavior

    I think that trying to surveil the entire world in this way is also an abnormality of behaviour - and I've detected it!

     

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 5th, 2013 @ 7:11am

    Criminal

    I wonder if they use this technology to also determine what facial features are common to criminals and

     

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 5th, 2013 @ 7:12am

    Criminal Features

    I wonder if they could use this technology to also determine what facial features are common to criminals and identify potential criminals before they act.

     

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 5th, 2013 @ 10:18am

    We should start wearing masks when on public.

     

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 5th, 2013 @ 10:40am

    Detect any abnormalities...

    Gee, this couldn't possibly go wrong:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Base_rate_fallacy

     

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