A new, high-tech surveillance system operating in major California cities could help detect crimes before they actually happen. But, what about our privacy? NBC 7's Dave Summers reports.
A new type of surveillance technology that may soon be used by local agencies has the potential to stop crimes before they actually happen.
It may sound like science fiction, but a surveillance system called “AISight” is making the possibility of tracking every single move a reality.
The cameras focus on typical, everyday life, recording everything in view. On the other end, a computer program is analyzing the movement, identifying abnormal behaviors.
The AISight technology, created by BRS Labs, is already operating in major California cities, including San Diego.
“The name of the game today is collecting information, gaining an awareness of potential problematic things that happen,” said BRS Labs president John Frazzini.
Frazzini has been pitching his artificial intelligence system to the City of San Diego. He was in town last week demonstrating the program to several local agencies, mostly law enforcement.
At least a dozen agencies have applied for grant money from Homeland Security to purchase the system.
According to Frazzini, the system could be a game-changer in terms of detecting crimes or threats before they happen.
“It gives security personnel and law enforcement personnel the ability to shift the focus from reactive scenario to a proactive scenario,” he told NBC 7.
AISight can monitor thousands of security cameras at a time. The computer learns what typical behavior looks like, and then identifies abnormal behavior.
“Identifying instances of unusual behavioral activity that could lead to pre-crime investigation,” Frazzini said.
However, not everyone sees the surveillance system as beneficial.
“Pre-crime is creepy,” ACLU Executive Director Kevin Keenan said.
The ACLU has its eye on AISight and other such software used to peer into parts of our lives we might expect to be private.
“That is the scary future that is becoming more and more our everyday reality,” Keenan told NBC 7.
Still, Frazinni says the images caught on tape don’t identify who, but instead what.
“There’s no personally identifiable information that is captured. It's all behaviorial activity that's captured,” he explained.
The images are the property of the business or government that bought the system. However, judging by recent uproar over cell phone and internet surveillance, nothing is that far from the federal government's reach.
“What inevitably happens is they get used for anything and everything to get what some people consider bad behavior,” Keenan said.
Keenan says there hasn't been a data privacy law written since 1986. The future of surveillance sees fewer boundaries.
“They give government tremendous power that we have to make sure is kept in check,” he added.
Currently, the AISight system is being used by one of San Diego County's Water authorities already.