Lip Reading Surveillance Cameras To Stop Terror

Eugen Leitl eugen at
Wed May 2 02:06:07 PDT 2007

 Lip Reading Surveillance Cameras To Stop Terror

Shouting, face scanning, eavesdropping, X-Ray firing and now lip reading
CCTV, do you still feel free?

Steve Watson

Friday, April 27, 2007   	

"Read my lips...." used to be a figurative saying. Now the British government
is considering taking it literally by adding lip reading technology to some
of the four million or so surveillance cameras in order identify terrorists
and criminals by watching what everyone says.

Electronic Design is reporting that the Home Office is interested in a
project being pursued by a senior lecturer in computer vision at the
University of East Anglia in Norwich, England:

    Computer-based lip-reading technology would help video surveillance
systems spot people planning a crime or terror attack by literally watching
suspectsb lips for clues. Once it finds someone speaking certain key words or
sentences, the system would automatically send an alert message to a central
console, mobile phone, or other communications device. Police or security
agents could then be dispatched to the scene to question the individual.

Of course as with all these Big Brother surveillance moves it cannot be
selectively applied and everyone will be subjected to it.

The automatic devices bring to mind the heart-chilling scene in "2001: A
Space Odyssey" when HAL (the intelligent computer) tells Dave that, despite
all the precautions taken, he knows Dave was planning to disconnect him
because he can read lips.

Imagine a place where you cannot step out of your front door and have a
conversation with someone without it being monitored. Imagine a place where
if you say something considered by the authorities to be suspicious a team of
agents is dispatched to your location to detain and question you. Does that
sound like a free country?

We have previously reported on the various Big Brother gadgets that the
government wants to or already has added to surveillance cameras in the UK.
Here is a brief re-cap:

Talking / Shouting cameras - In an incredibly Orwellian move, loudspeakers
are being fitted to surveillance cameras throughout major cities, allowing
CCTV operators to bark commands at people who drop litter, act in an
aggressive manner or loiter. Some of these cameras will even use the voices
of children who will be recruited from schools to take part in the scheme and
will be shown round CCTV operating rooms on school trips, learning how
wonderful the big brother state is and how forcing people to behave in a
certain way in public is the essence of a free society.

X-Ray firing cameras - Documents leaked from the Home Office have revealed
that the government is looking into using X-ray technology cameras by
concealing them in lamp posts to "trap terror suspects". The cameras allow
operators to see through people's clothes and look for suspicious items.

Eavesdropping cameras - London police and councils are considering monitoring
our conversations in the street using high-powered microphones attached to
CCTV cameras that can pick up "aggressive tones" on the basis of 12 factors,
including decibel level, pitch and the speed at which words are spoken.

Face scanning cameras - linked into a national database software will allow
cameras to scan hundreds of faces a second in crowds of people.

Behaviour monitoring cameras - These devices are programmed to sound an alarm
when they spot suspicious behaviour, such as waiting somewhere for a
prolonged period of time or just walking in a suspicious way. These have
already been deployed in airports and train stations.

Are we seriously supposed to believe that these devices are going to stop

Watching everyone all of the time and treating the entire population as
suspects is not going to weed out terrorists and criminals. Nor is it an
effective way of defending our freedoms against those who we are told wish to
attack us because we are free.

If the government were to implement every piece of technology they are
seriously considering to add to existing surveillance cameras, we would
literally be living in a society ten times worse than that of Orwell's
Airstrip One.

We continually have to make sure that does not happen by exposing these

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