If we imagine video monitoring in a Norwegian supermarket in the 1990s, the camera was large and prominent, and was connected to a video recorder in the back rooms of the supermarket with a cable. Technology has improved considerably since then, with better image resolution, software, storage and wireless connection.
At the same time, monitoring solutions have generally become less expensive and more readily available. However, the biggest technological shift came in the 2010s, when artificial intelligence and machine learning could be used to analyse the video feed.
With solutions based on artificial intelligence, anything in the video feed can be analysed automatically. This makes it technically possible to collect vast quantities of data on the persons captured by the camera. At the same time, increased processing power and advances in edge computing have made it possible to run machine learning algorithms in the camera body, which means that data is, to an increasing degree, being analysed before it is ever made available to humans. This changes how personal data is being processed in monitoring systems.
The Data Protection Authority finds that video monitoring is a topic that holds considerable interest for many people. In recent decades, our information service has regularly received enquiries about this topic. Among other things, we receive questions from private individuals who feel they are being watched by video monitoring systems, and from enterprises that have questions about how to implement video monitoring in compliance with the law.
Monitoring of people is an exercise in authority that entails a certain level of infringement of the individual’s right to privacy. As shown in this report, this infringement must be considered in light of the specific purpose in each instance. Solutions that adopt artificial intelligence may be both more and less invasive, compared to older monitoring technology. Many see data protection as a competitive advantage in the market, and the Data Protection Authority considers it positive that more enterprises are moving in this direction.
The presence of video monitoring equipment in itself will generate a feeling of being watched – regardless of whether or not the camera is “intelligent”. We do not discuss the general pervasiveness of video monitoring in this report, since this should be the subject of a wider public debate.