31 October 2001
We convened this press briefing because the technical, economic, political issues surrounding surveillance technologies are very complicated, and they’re coming on faster than lawmakers, and certainly faster than the nontechnical public, can understand how they should be used. One of the places where surveillance technology issues will be discussed is in the press, and we hope this briefing will be informative for the press in attendance. Our speakers–who come to surveillance technology-related issues from different sides of the problem–will address questions of utility–what these technologies are and how they work (or don’t work)–and the issues surrounding appropriate use of these technologies in public places.
Speakers at the Briefing: Mr. Rodney Nichols, Executive Director of the New York Academy of Sciences, Susan Hassler, Editor, IEEE Spectrum, Professor Steven Maybank, University of Reading; Dr. Joseph Atick, CEO, Visionics; Mr. Michael Vatis, Director, Institute for Security Technology Studies at Dartmouth; Mr. Barry Steinhardt, Associate Director, American Civil Liberties Union, Robert Freeman, Executive Director of the New York State Committee on Open Government.
Mr. Rodney Nichols, Executive Director, New York Academy of Sciences:
Thank you very much. Welcome to all of you to what I hope will be a very interesting afternoon. The issues we’re going to talk about today are quite critical in two senses, which then have to be brought together. One sense is technological innovation, also the reliability of the technology. And that applies to the older technologies as well as new technological tools that will probably be invented in the next few years or decade. On the other hand, we have to cope with society’s reactions to the applications of these tools, whether they really work, whether they provide surveillance and protection and defense or not, and the degree to which other kinds of freedoms and values that we hold will be sustained.
As a young physicist, I worked in the Pentagon, and in research and development in the defense business and national security business there’s often a real sense of urgency. I think that’s what all of us who live in New York have felt for the last six weeks, a sense of urgency. Yet at the same time it’s extremely important to think through the stakes and the consequences. There is that rueful saying in Washington, "you want results and you get consequences." We are very likely to be seeing that as we implement a variety of things.
The New York Academy of Sciences’ role is to convene groups like this, I hope always with a value-added sense. We have a sense of service to society, with a base of science and technology, and we’re delighted to be playing a small role this fall in bringing people together to think about recovery and next steps after the horrific attacks of September 11.
I want to introduce Susan Hassler, the moderator for the session this afternoon. I've known Susan in a professional way for a number of years. She was, as some of you know, a very distinguished editor of Nature Biotechnology before taking her present position as editor of IEEE Spectrum. She’s an imaginative, energetic, and highly professional editor. Many of us in other parts of the scientific community read Spectrum, but may not read journals produced by other professional societies. So I think you’ll enjoy having Susan as your moderator.
Ms. Hassler: Good afternoon. I want to welcome everybody on behalf of IEEE Spectrum and on behalf of the Academy of Sciences, both those of you in the room and those listening in by telephone.
Why did we decide to do this? Obviously, before September 11, one of the issues Spectrum was covering was privacy. And one of the concerns people had was privacy. People were worried about identity theft, and how in transactions over the Internet your information would go on from one place to another, and you couldn’t conduct financial transactions without people being privy to where you were you going and when and how and what you were buying. There was concern about New York's EZ Pass system for issuing traffic violations. There was concern–quite a preoccupation, I think–with privacy issues in an electronic setting.
Obviously after September 11 everything transmuted into a huge concern about security and protection. There have been estimates that if we were to actively engage in all of the security measures and ideas that have been put forward, that we could spend in the United States alone hundreds of billlions to one and a half trillion dollars on protecting against cyber attacks and biological and radiological attacks and providing security for critical infrastructure.
So we convened this meeting because the technical, economic, political issues that surround surveillance technologies are very complicated, and they’re coming on faster than lawmakers, and certainly faster than the nontechnical public, can process them and understand how they should be used.
We’ve just seen the Congress broaden significantly the government’s ability to monitor people in the United States and beyond, using a variety of these technologies. And one of the places where all of this will be discussed is in the press, both the utility–what these technologies are, how they work, what advances might be made with them, and how we would balance them with things already in play–and then also how to manage and maintain them in doing what they’re supposed to be doing and not crossing the boundaries into being used to check up on people not necessarily on the to-be-checked-up-on list.
That said, I would like to tell you a little bit about our speakers, and about the format. Each of the speakers has agreed to make a very short presentation, after which we will go to questions. I'm estimating that the presentations will take about 45 minutes. We’ll have 45 minutes of Q & A.
Our first speaker is Professor Stephen Maybank, who has come all the way from the University of Reading in the United Kingdom today to talk about the technology of tracking people and vehicles. Another thing he will talk about is the use of anomaly detection or behavior recognition, and also about some of the problems that go with image archiving. In other words, if you’re going to start taking pictures of everybody, what do you do with these pictures, how do you store them, and how do you get them from place to place? Professor Maybank was the chairman of the third IEEE International Workshop on Visual Surveillance, and he is a researcher in computer vision at the University of Reading.