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News Release

UCSD's Trivedi and Sen. Leahy Discuss Legal and Technical Challenges to Video Surveillance; Webcast Now Available

3.29.04 -- Jacobs School of Engineering professor of electrical and computer engineering Mohan Trivedi participated in a blue-ribbon panel March 23 in Washington D.C. on "Video Surveillance: Legal and Technological Challenges." The conference is now available for viewing online (see below).

Trivedi Slide
People tracking using privacy filters in the DIVA system; individuals in the video are automatically blocked off and represented as 3D colored boxes.

The meeting was organized by the bipartisan Constitution Project at Georgetown University Law Center, to examine the impact of new and emerging video surveillance technologies on privacy and civil liberties. "Even though there are thousands and even millions of cameras out there, most of them aren't working cooperatively; most of them are used for remote viewing by humans or for archival purposes," said Trivedi, a computer-vision expert and Cal-(IT)²’s layer leader at UCSD for intelligent transportation and telematics,  Trivedi noted that practical, real-world systems for automatic face recognition “are very hard to build, and a versatile system which not only has very high recognition accuracies but also very low ‘false positives’ will not be possible in the near future.” He went on to outline several projects underway at UCSD in the area of "smart" camera networks that he calls distributed interactive video arrays (DIVAs).

After the panel, the ranking minority member on the Senate Judiciary Committee, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), delivered remarks on "The Dawn of Micro-Monitoring: Its Promise, and Its Challenges." (A print version of Leahy's speech is available at http://leahy.senate.gov/press/200403/032304.html.

Video IconStreaming video of Sen. Leahy's talk and the 2-hour panel discussion is now available for viewing on-demand [RealOne Player or RealPlayer required] at
To start watching Professor Trivedi's initial presentation, go to http://media.law.georgetown.edu:8080/ramgen/archive/video0304.rm?start=58:20.

Trivedi is the director of UCSD’s Computer Vision and Robotics Research (http://cvrr.ucsd.edu) laboratory. Along with his colleagues in CVRR, Trivedi is currently working on several projects in the field of computer vision, with funding from government agencies and private foundations. In his presentation, Trivedi noted that video surveillance is not a single-function module, but is indeed a system which includes capture, analysis, encryption, transmission, storage, and display of visual information. He also discussed elements of  UCSD’s DIVA project for capturing “interesting” events in real-time. These systems incorporate so-called privacy filters, which can block viewing or recognition of individuals, while allowing characterization of various movement patterns and tracks, in a person-independent manner. “We call these systems ‘blind’ DIVAs, and they could lead to improved security without infringement of privacy,” Trivedi said.

Among other participants on the panel: Washington D.C. Metropolitan Chief of Police Charles Ramsey; four legal scholars, including professors Jeffrey Rosen and Sarah Wartell of Georgetown, Chris Slobogin of University of Florida, and Marc Blitz of Wilmer Cutler and Pickering; two senior Pentagon officials -- DARPA’s  Thomas Strat, and John Woodward, director of the Pentagon's Biometrics Management Office; and Kevin McKenna, government solutions program manager for Viisage Technology. Chief Ramsey welcomed capabilities such as those of Trivedi’s proposed blind DIVA systems, saying that law enforcement agencies would find such privacy filters acceptable in surveillance.

The panel was moderated by Mr. Joseph Onek, director of the Constitution Project's Liberty and Security Initiative. "In the aftermath of 9/11, the U.S. government has sought to increase its ability to gather information and intelligence about individuals that may pose a danger to the country, while many Americans worry that these efforts will impinge on privacy and civil liberties," said Onek in his opening remarks. "Our focus is on video surveillance by the government, not by the private sector, but the line is a fairly thin one, because the government has the right to subpoena and review surveillance evidence of the private sector."

The Constitution Project combines scholarship and activism using a wide variety of practical efforts to promote constitutional dialogue in settings outside the judiciary. As part of that effort, it creates bipartisan blue-ribbon committees of former government officials, judges, scholars, and other prominent citizens to reach across ideological and partisan lines, and across divides among the executive, judicial, and legislative branches.

Media Contacts

Doug Ramsey
Jacobs School of Engineering