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Technical Perspective: Lighting the Way to Visual Privacy

By Marco Gruteser

Communications of the ACM, Vol. 63 No. 2, Page 80
10.1145/3375569



As cameras pervade our lives, a defining question is how to design technologies that can protect proprietary information and respect the privacy preferences of individuals. Mobile devices have already significantly reduced the effort to capture and share images. Moreover, technology trends are moving toward continuous visual sensing where even mobile cameras remain always active to monitor the environment and user context. What technical approaches help balance the convenience and usefulness of such applications against the preferences of subjects whose likeness or property is captured in such recordings?

Such questions are frequently addressed through fair information principles such as disclosure and consent that should be incorporated into the system design. Such consent solutions have been difficult to apply to camera images since a subject may be unaware of the images being captured. Short of hiding from sight or using masks, few systems offer provisions for opting out of having images of one's likeness or property recorded. Some ad hoc opt-out solutions allow subjects to have photographs showing their likeness or property removed from sharing services. This places responsibility on the subject to identify where recordings of them or their property are shared, a process that is becoming increasingly onerous as the number of services using and sharing imagery multiply.

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