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  The Computer Says You’re Violent  
Posted 2006-10-27 by Tony Walsh
Have you ever wondered who might be watching any of the surveillance cameras mounted around your city? According to NewScientistTech, it's not "who" will be watching, but "what." A computer may some day review closed-circuit camera footage, deciding whether or not violent activities have transpired. The technology, still in development, analyzes footage frame by frame, trying to match pixel-clusters against a model of the human form. The makers of the system believe they can determine what an interaction means. "For example, when identifying two people shaking hands, their hands must not only be close, but must also move in synchrony." Asynchronous movement might not be a handshake, but a punching-match, believe the inventors. "On average, the system was 80% accurate at identifying these activities correctly."

I'm glad to read the makers of the system recognize it has a long way to go. Personally, I think technology like this is going to turn up too many false positives to be useful: How do we know when two people are play-fighting as opposed to real-fighting? Is playing paper-rock-scissors or doing Tai Chi going to alert the police? Daydreaming about the social ramifications, I see flash-mobs staging "false positive" events such as breakdancing, crunking, or pillow-fighting in public spaces--would the authorities then feel obligated to restrict our freedom of expression to make up for a technological failing?
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