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Use of Private Surveillance Grows With the Help of Cheap AI Tech

As the technology gets cheaper, AI surveillance systems are gaining popularity in some parts of the country, like the neighborhood of Magnolia in Seattle.
December 9, 2019, 11am PST | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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Security Cameras

Melissa Hellman reports on the proliferation of a private artificial-intelligence security system called Flock Safety in the city of Seattle. Ten neighborhoods around the city are using Flock Safety, including Magnolia, which is where the article's attention focuses.

"The system uses computer vision and machine learning to digitize and categorize images of license plates, the color, make and model of vehicles, as well as how many times a car has entered the neighborhood in a 30-day period," according to Hellman. With that technology, resident Phil Andrews has detected "an uptick in neighborhood disruptions near the secluded waterfront community of dead-end streets called Land’s End. He noted a break-in, package theft and people meandering through the neighborhood who appeared 'high as a kite."

According to Hellman, studies say there are two sides to this private surveillance coin: "While studies show that security cameras can prevent crime when used in conjunction with other deterrents, such as increased lighting, some researchers say AI surveillance systems exacerbate users’ inherent biases and impact people who are disproportionately policed, such as people of color and those experiencing homelessness."

The feature-length article includes more details on how Magnolia residents bought and adopted the technology, how police use surveillance footage from systems like Flock Safety, the adoption of Flock Safety in other 300 U.S. cities, and the business of private security systems, with home security expected to be a $48 billion business next year.

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