Google Partners with Prism Skylabs, “a cloud-based service that allows business owners to bring video feeds online, capture images from these feeds and share this data with consumers and the public.”

March 12th, 2012

What could go wrong?

Here’s how Prism Skylabs works: Most stores and restaurants have surveillance videos running 24-hours a day. Unless there is a theft or another crime that takes place in the establishment, this massive amount of surveillance video is unused. The startup allows a business to download free software that detects cameras or video on a network, and showcases a number of images of the space to the business. Similar to the way you can pull images from videos using a video editing software, Prism Skylabs pulls relevant images of your establishment and builds insightful visualizations from these photos, while protecting customer privacy.

More from the Times Bits Blog.

Of course privacy is a concern for many when it comes to security camera footage. Prism Skylabs says on its Web site that it has developed a technology that eliminates people’s faces and bodies from an image, forming a ghost-like shape that completely protects the privacy of customers.

In Omniveillance, I wrote about how surveillance footage is different from Street View, in that the former is dumb, and not networked.

It is important to distinguish Street View from previousiterations of public recording that lack many of the distinguishing characteristics that make this new phenomenon such a deep invasion into society’s privacy. Banks, hotels, and retail stores frequently use surveillance cameras to video-record customers for security reasons. . . .

As invasive as all of these recordings are, they are easily distinguished from Street View. First, these monitoring regimes are extremely limited in scope. The cameras are strewn out sparsely throughout specific areas. Second, the recordings are not easily accessible. These providers do not store or archive images, but rather produce a new image over regular intervals. In addition, private businesses seldom make their recordings available to the general public. Finally, the recordings have extremely limited usability. These services provide a single point of view, with relatively crude image clarity.

Oh well. Scratch another thing off the list.