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SituCon System Watches over US Community without Compromise of Residential Privacy

Source: The Town of Brookline | Date: 12/30/2010

Related tags: SituCon, public monitoring, situational awareness, cameras

The Town of Brookline, Massachusetts has deployed SituCon System's emergency awareness solution, which features proprietary privacy protecting technology, to allow Brookline's existing camera system to continue providing safety benefits while also satisfying community privacy requirements.

The camera network, known as the critical infrastructure monitoring system (CIMS), was installed throughout Brookline's major intersections to provide assistance in the management of emergency situations.

In recognition of the privacy concerns that existed prior to the initial installation of these cameras, the Brookline Board of Selectmen formed the CIMS camera oversight committee to develop a policy for a balanced use of the system. The committee was tasked with developing a policy that would address both safety concerns and the potential for the camera's to intrude on personal freedom and privacy. To accomplish this, the committee worked closely with law enforcement agencies, including the Brookline Police Department, as well as civil liberties groups such as the Constitution Project and the American Civil Liberties Union. Following an understanding of the safety benefits and privacy implications of such a camera system, a final report was made to the Selectmen this past summer that detailed how the system should be used.

“The camera oversight committee should be applauded for developing a camera usage policy that maintains the interests of both citizens and town employees,” said Betsy DeWitt, Chairman of Brookline's Board of Selectmen. “The policy outlines how, with the right technology in place, our town can protect citizens while addressing privacy concerns. We have the ability to control the activation of the cameras in a way that shows when they are in operation and when they are not.”

Instead of deploying a 24/7 surveillance system that constantly records and monitors activity, the committee determined that a solution that activated video only at specific times would be integral to providing both safety and privacy. Consistent with this policy, SituCon's integrated software and hardware solution was implemented to electronically and physically mask camera images at all times other than when camera use is needed during predetermined “high risk” periods, such as at night, when they have proven helpful in the past. SituCam privacy protecting cameras were deployed that physically prevent camera use when closed while making sure camera inactivity is obvious to community members. However, since emergencies can happen at any time, the Brookline Police Department can remotely activate the cameras at other times while utilizing SituCon's software to simultaneously send text messages and E-mails that notify privacy advocates and town officials of their use.

“Protecting the safety and privacy of Brookline's citizens is of the utmost importance to town officials, so we needed a solution that would satisfy both of these concerns,” said Scott Wilder, Technology Director, Brookline Police Department. “We remain impressed with the functionality of SituCon's solutions and their ability to strike the balance between the safety we need and the privacy that is desired.”

“Brookline's camera committee developed a protocol for camera usage that makes sense for all involved parties including citizens, town officials, employees and public safety,” said Seth Cirker, President of SituCon Systems.
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