'Unblinking' looks at privacy in the surveillance age

UTX, Microsoft, Cisco, sponsor symposium at UC Berkeley School of Law
SSN Staff  - 
Wednesday, November 1, 2006

BERKELEY, Calif.--What degree of scrutiny are people willing to undergo in public spaces? And in a rapidly evolving environment of unblinking eyes and permanent visual records, what will it mean to have privacy? On Nov. 3 and 4, a cross-disciplinary panel of guests at UC Berkeley School of Law will explore the ramifications of modern surveillance, chiefly examining issues of privacy. The symposium, "Unblinking: New Perspectives on Visual Privacy in the 21st Century," will feature commentary from a wide-ranging group of experts who will speak from the perspectives of law, engineering, public policy, urban planning, psychology and human rights.
Sponsors of the event include United Technologies, Cisco and Microsoft, but as of press time no representatives from the security or software industry were slated to present. Ken Greenberg, professor of engineering at UC Berkeley and one of the organizers of the conference said, "We would welcome more folks from the industry, but didn't get any applicants to our open call."
Experts at the symposium will speak on the issue of "visual privacy" and discuss some of the compelling questions that have propelled the demand for security cameras to new heights since 9/11 and the London Transport bombings. It's important to examine the issue of privacy as it relates to the proliferation of surveillance cameras now, said Greenberg, because "cameras are increasing dramatically in capabilities and decreasing just as dramatically in cost. It's vital to think about the privacy issues now."
The increasingly powerful pan, tilt and zoom features, infrared and nightvision capabilities, as well as new developments in miniaturization and the embedding of cameras in small multi-use consumer electronic devices now enables camera users to capture more details as they take video of a given subject. Greenberg said it's important to regulate surveillance, because "If we don't have some regulations and policies as we do with wiretapping and audio surveillance, we'll be completely vulnerable to detailed scrutiny from afar. I think this would have serious consequences psychologically for us and future generations."