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Triple-encrypted CCTV

No-one can watch it unless everyone agrees
(+2, -2)
  [vote for,

Little video cameras everywhere recording everything all the time, on a loop (so just imagine the UK, basically).

The video streams are encrypted at the source three times sequentially using three different public keys. The private counterparts of which are held by:

1) The police / courts 2) A committee of local community leaders 3) A national television voting show

(Or some other contrasting mix of parties)

Only if all three key holders agree, can the footage be viewed, essentially limiting its use to cases of serious crime where popular opinion considers the privacy intrusion to be justified. The feeds are not monitored live and are thus only useful as evidence rather than for intervening in crime as it happens.

A less strict variation which records three different streams each encrypted only twice, would mean that the video can be decrypted if only two out of the three parties agree. This is data-wasteful, but storage is getting cheaper, so it'll be viable soon enough, and would be useful, for example, when exposing police brutality, corruption in local politics, or any other scenario where one party has a sinister interest in keeping the footage unseen.

This idea provides much of the usefulness of large scale video surveillance, with a minimal impact on privacy: it's likely that only a few hours out of the many millennia of footage recorded every year would ever be seen by human eyes.

A further variation could be installed into people's most intimate places; their homes, workplaces and vehicles, attached to their bodies; which incorporate their own encryption keys and exist purely for their own peace of mind: e.g. finding out the cause of a house fire, providing an alibi, assisting in insurance claims, having evidence of being assaulted. Guests and bystanders will feel assured that the footage cannot be viewed by the owner without the consent of trusted external parties, and the individual in charge of the cameras understands that they have the final say in who sees the privately collected footage, and could not be compelled to violate their own privacy.

Clearly marking such cameras as being privacy-preserving, perhaps with suitable legislation making tampering with or misrepresenting ordinary cameras as encrypted, might be necessary for the idea to work. However, do bear in mind that anyone who wants to record someone secretly already has a plethora of better options, so the abuse-potential of this idea for upskirt filming and pervy toilet cams, even without new laws, is pretty low.

idris83, May 17 2012


       Incorporation of popular opinion via TV call-in show is where this idea breaks done. The TV-watching public is largely composed of idiots.
Alterother, May 17 2012

       You're talking about videos in public areas: streets, parks and the like, I assume.   

       1) police
2) local politicians/community reps
3) John Q Public.

       yeah umm none of that actually makes sense:   

       The police presumably already have a check in place: the requirement to get a warrant.   

       Local community leaders might be the owners (in a security sense) of the feed, and IMHO would be the people to go to to emplace cameras (if deemed necessary) in the first place, but have no reason to look at the feed and shouldn't be able to veto a properly executed warrant.   

       A vote-in show <wince>. Seriously ? The only time you'd get anything except "let's screw over somewhere that isn't here" would be if a celebrity was involved.   

       A well deserved piscine skeleton.
FlyingToaster, May 17 2012

       // trusted external parties //   

       Ahhhhh … that's all right, then…
8th of 7, May 17 2012

       It's an improvement on the current system - I like it [+] (Though I'm interpreting the part about a tv-show as being facetious - some form of democratic representation would provide balance though)   

       I would draw the line at increasing surveillance - but since it's near impossible to do anything these days without it being captured on cctv anyway, we're pretty much already there as it is.
zen_tom, May 17 2012

       What [zen_tom] said, but I'm not sure there is an implementation that I would be happy with. I'm a little leary of the public/private keys for data that should stay private indefinitely. It seems inevitable that someone will eventually leak or crack the private keys.   

       Also note that there are ways to do encryption that requires 2 out of 3 (or other combinations) without storing the data redundantly. But my worry about the encryption still applies.   

       Also, for personal privacy cams, there would need to be laws ensuring that people could not be legally compelled to provide the decription key. Apparently that isn't even entirely clear under the 5th ammendment provisions against self incrimination in the USA.
scad mientist, May 17 2012

       “1) The police / courts”   

       These are /not/ the same entity, and shouldn't be lumped together like that. The courts should actually serve as a check on police power, not a component of it.   

       A court could, of course, unilaterally compel all parties to divulge their decryption keys. That's not necessarily a bad thing. There may well be some value in having constant ubiquitous video recording that can only be actually viewed by anyone given a court order. I'd be worried about the potential for security breaches, though. You'd have to rely on the effectiveness whatever security measures are in place, and I'm not at all sure that the benefits would outweigh the risks in this case.
ytk, May 17 2012

       //The police presumably already have a check in place: the requirement to get a warrant.//   


       // 1) police 2) local politicians/community reps 3) John Q Public. yeah umm none of that actually makes sense: // (And various similar responses)   

       I've got this covered: "Or some other contrasting mix of parties". Pick a better mix of key holders if you like; it's not the point: compared with our current widespread implementation of CCTV, all three parties would have to be evil for your privacy to be violated, instead of just one, so the odds are better.   

       // A vote-in show <wince>. Seriously ? The only time you'd get anything except "let's screw over somewhere that isn't here" would be if a celebrity was involved //   

       Well, not entirely seriously. It's more about having a jury- like component. I think it's overly cynical to assume that a jury will always make the most sadistic decisions, even if they have anonymity. Knowing that there is likely to be encrypted footage of themselves somewhere, a jury member won't have much trouble sympathising with the strangers on the piece of footage under scrutiny. And even if this is wishful thinking, there would still be two other agencies deciding whether or not to release their keys; and their members would probably not enjoy anonymity.   

       // I'm a little leary of the public/private keys for data that should stay private indefinitely. // // trusted external parties // // Ahhhhh … that's all right, then… //   

       I appreciate the cynical sentiment that the agencies we're supposed to trust always seem to be the most untrustworthy, but like it or not, they and others are *already* stockpiling many millennia of footage, unencrypted and poorly protected, from cameras controlled and regulated by anyone who feels like setting one up. As cameras get cheaper and smaller, they are becoming ubiquitous; they're on houses, in offices; on dashboards; on handlebars; soon they'll be in Google Glasses recording everything everyone sees.   

       If something like this doesn't take off, I'll be buying shares in burqa manufacturers.
idris83, May 18 2012

       I feel I should add; I write this from the point of view of someone who works in a high-security facility and who ends up on at least 50 different CCTV feeds at various points in a typical day (without even going outside). Being leered at by beady black ceiling eyeballs on every corner does start to get to you while sleep-deprived state on the night-shift at 4am.   

       Should this kind of arrangement become commonplace in public (and private), as time goes on, and it's not unreasonable to extrapolate that it could, I won't be the only one feeling this way.   

       Needing to make an underwear adjustment, blow my nose, or check my grindr messages, when alone, I more often than not end up leaving myself in discomfort, with a nose full of bogeys and secret messages unread. Even my posture in my chair is different when I feel like I am being watched. If those cameras (which I agree are necessary) were triple-encrypted, I wouldn't be as hesitant to do these awkward but necessary things. I would however still be very unlikely to commit crimes, which is supposed to be the point of security cameras.
idris83, May 18 2012

       as has been pointed out, the police and the courts are two separate things.   

       My evaluation, as noted, was for public cameras only: streets & parks. You want the community to decide if an area needs coverage, and access limited to a court order. Why would you possibly need or want anything else ?   

       However a school classroom, should there be need for a video camera, normal access would be teacher and class rep with no dissemination rights. Purposes would be subject review for students and a self-examination tool for the teacher.   

       //privacy to be violated// What exactly are you talking about ?
FlyingToaster, May 18 2012


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