May 1 talk looks at privacy concerns of surveillance video

Kelly Gates, a researcher who studies the growing use of surveillance video in police work, is scheduled to speak Wednesday, May 1, at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s Golda Meir Library, fourth floor Conference Center, 2311 E. Hartford Ave., at 2 p.m.

Her presentation, “The Computational Work of Policing,” is part of the School of Information Studies’ “Choose Privacy Week.” Gates is an associate professor in the Department of Communication and Science Studies Program at the University of California, San Diego. Her work focuses on the political and social implications of computerization and automated surveillance.

The widespread use of closed-circuit TV security systems has made recorded surveillance video a useful source of evidence in criminal investigations, says Gates. The video that captured images of the accused Boston Marathon bombers, helping to identify them, is one recent example.

“I think there will definitely be a push for more video in more places as a result of the Boston Marathon bombing,” she says. And that has implications for privacy.

“The right to have a domain of privacy free from government and corporate intrusion is critical for a functioning democracy,” Gates says. However, she adds, the calls for increased security surveillance aren’t really addressing the fundamental political, environmental, cultural and economic issues behind the major global crises.

“The pursuit of ever more perfectly functioning surveillance systems is definitely threatening to whatever shreds of privacy people have left. But as long as we see the larger causes of our ‘security issues’ as intractable, then what other solution is there but more and better surveillance and policing?” In her view, that is no solution at all. “It’s like buying more air conditioners to deal with the problem of global warming.”

In her presentation, Gates will also explore how the scientific credibility of video-based evidence, like DNA evidence and other types of forensic testimony, is constantly being tested in the courts.

She’ll also discuss how tools developed for creative media production – collaborative work-sharing systems, digital nonlinear editing and media asset management systems – are being repurposed for forensic video analysis.

“There are a lot of different video forensics systems on the market, and any particular agency could be using any one of them,” Gates says. “Not every [investigative] agency has a sophisticated system, but they are increasingly recognizing the need for them.

“I just got an email a couple of days ago from a company using the Boston Marathon bombing investigation as a sales pitch.’