Concerns about data privacy and protection against misuse have accompanied the adoption of smart city technologies, as we have previously highlighted. Recently, these concerns have grown. In June 2021, the European Data Protection Board and European Data Protection Supervisor called for a ban on any use of “AI for automated recognition of human features in publicly accessible spaces, such as recognition of faces, gait, fingerprints, DNA, voice, keystrokes, and other biometric or behavioral signals in any context.” A previous proposal by the European Commission had restricted but not banned the use of facial recognition in public spaces.
Recently, the hack of a large camera data start-up exposed the full video archive of the company’s customers. Furthermore, the hack disclosed the placement of hidden security cameras. It revealed the facial and other recognition features of the company’s software, and it allowed the hackers to insert their own code to use the cameras for their own purposes and even re-hijack the cameras in the future. This incident highlights that, while camera-based monitoring systems may be intended for good, useful purposes, if facial and other identifying information about a person is captured, then it can be accessed by unauthorized, potentially malicious entities.
This prompts the question: Do we want to rely solely on camera technology for security and infrastructure applications? It is clear that the average person is not comfortable with private companies having access to their facial data through the proliferation of cameras in all parts of private and public life. And it is clear from the video data breach mentioned above that, if the collection of facial and other identifying data expands, there will be more opportunity for bad actors to access that data. In contrast, lidar is able to monitor the environment and create data about its surroundings, especially people, without collecting facial recognition or other biometric data. (Read more in our white paper Roadside Lidar for Smart Transportation Infrastructure.)
Importantly, lidar has a crucial ability to protect an individual’s privacy in these scenarios.
In airport terminals, private buildings, retail stores, intersections, and other high traffic spaces, Velodyne’s surround view sensors provide essential data for security, detection, tracking, or navigation. Crowd tracking applications – from fenceless barriers to crowd management to queue tracking – do not require facial recognition capabilities. Velodyne’s sensors keep costs and implementation expenses low by providing a wide field of view up to 360° with a single sensor. A single Velodyne sensor can address deficiencies of camera technology and protect individual privacy, whether in a retail space, on a vehicle using our Vella Software, or at an intersection using our Intelligent Infrastructure Solution. Not only are Velodyne’s lidar solutions essential to automation systems because of their extensive capabilities, they also protect the public from the ubiquitous collection of sensitive, exploitable personal data.
Camera technology is a useful technology for automation and other applications. However, the ubiquitous use of cameras is insufficient to meet the full spectrum of safety needs of automation and inadequate in that it is vulnerable to exploitation by bad actors. As we pointed out in our original blog post, cameras are passive sensors that provide 2D images and suffer in low and no light conditions. In contrast, Velodyne’s lidar technology provides short, mid, and long-range sensing with depth measurements while preserving privacy. This is yet another example of how Velodyne is creating smart and secure technology for a world in motion.