CMU Develops Surveillance System

Article excerpt

Civil libertarians warn there is a darker side to emerging technologies, such as a new multiple-camera computer monitoring program Carnegie Mellon University researchers developed to track patients in a nursing home.

CMU researchers who developed the "Marauder's Map" program to predict the health of multiple nursing home patients based on around- the-clock observation of their movements are preparing to present their findings at an international conference on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition in Portland, Ore.

While they concede their work may have implications for national security, and a CMU press release touted the use of such technologies "in airports, public facilities and other areas where security is a concern," researchers say their focus was the health of the elderly.

"This had to do with health research for individual patients to alert their caregivers to subtle changes that could indicate health issues. It was not meant to be a nefarious Big Brother, big government-type project," said research team leader Alexander Hauptmann, principal systems scientist in CMU's Computer Science Department.

Jennifer Lynch, a staff attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation said ultimately the system could pose serious implications for privacy and civil liberties.

"For example, if the government were to use this technology to track and identify individuals as they go about their daily lives, it would allow the government to create a digital dossier of the intimate details of a person's life. This creates a chilling effect on individuals' behavior," Lynch said.

The development emerges in the heat of a national debate over government surveillance of people's phone records and Internet usage. …