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October 23, 2020

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The Video Surveillance Report 2020

Video redaction

The next phase in video redaction and data protection?

IFSEC Global hears from Gary Trotter, co-founder of Ocucon, on the importance of complying with data regulations via video redaction technology and how this can be done quickly and effectively with the latest update to the company’s AI-based redaction tool for surveillance systems, Pixelate.

GDPR-CyberInsuranceSecurity-20Why is there a need for video redaction?

The general public are becoming increasingly aware that CCTV footage that they are featured in is included in GDPR regulations: this means they have a right to request any video footage that they feature in, and the identity of anyone else in that footage must be protected – redacted – so they cannot be recognised.

This is a rather contentious subject where a lot of the time, parties on both sides (the person in the footage, and the owner of the footage) do not understand the rules and laws around GDPR, and therefore may be unintentionally breaking the law, or not making a claim to the rights they have.

To begin with, many companies used GDPR as a reason to not supply CCTV footage to members of the public requesting it, as a result of data protection. This misconception comes from the fact that they would have to redact every other person in the footage. Just recently, H&M received a fine of £32m for not complying with GDPR laws as they monitored their employees in Germany without paying any regard to permissions and consent.

In 2019, the Information Commissioner’s Office received nearly 6,000 complaints that companies had failed to comply with CCTV access requests. When a member of the public asks for a copy of CCTV footage that they are featured in from a business in the UK – that business must supply this within one month.

There are several reasons why someone would request CCTV footage (aside from Police cases). These include civil cases like personal injury claims, specific incidents or evidence in another legal case, but anyone can request the footage and they do not have to give a reason. If a CCTV camera is filming people in a public or private space, the operator must comply with GDPR regulations, this includes retail areas, open public spaces, public transport, hospitality venues or professional office spaces.

The sheer amount of CCTV currently monitoring spaces in the UK means there are many obstacles faced by both consumers and data professionals when it comes to complying with GDPR and subject access requests – including providing the footage within one month, and in a readable format.

The challenges facing data and security professionals

As awareness of GDPR rises, data security professionals begin to face a challenge: the more requests they get for video footage, the more footage that needs to be redacted.

Traditionally, video redaction has been a laborious, time-consuming, and expensive process where you would have to manually select each person to be redacted, in each frame of a video, something that could take up to one hour per minute of video, depending on how many people are in a video. If the footage was taken from a busy shopping centre, for example, this could take days.

As many data and security professionals know, there are over 30 different types of video file formats, many of which are used in CCTV software, but not used by the wider public. This means a retailer may think they have complied with the subject access request by providing the redacted footage within a month, but if it’s an AVI file on a disk, most consumers would not know where to begin and it would be viewed as unreadable. So, on top of the hours of redaction, a data professional would have to look at converting files to ensure any footage they supply would be accessible – another time-consuming and expensive challenge.

A video redaction solution?

A few years ago, Ocucon started looking for quicker, smarter ways to redact video, and from that, Pixelate was born. It was an automatic video redaction tool, meaning that operators could select who would be redacted in any given frame when the footage is uploaded, and Pixelate would follow that person across the rest of the video and redact them. It saved a lot of time for many businesses.

Ocucon-Pixelate-20

As the technology became more popular, Ocucon continued to work on the AI behind Pixelate, adding number plate redaction, and quicker functionality.

Now, retailers and other businesses are facing a new challenge: responsibility to regulate and support new laws around COVID-19 restrictions and regulations. Shops are currently responsible for enforcing the wearing of face coverings on their premises; something which could cause conflict and issues should managers need to provide evidence of someone not adhering to rules.

In October this year, following a long consultation with customers and users of Pixelate, Ocucon launched Pixelate 3, with a functionality that would save even more time for businesses: automatic detection. Now, when there is a request for CCTV footage, regardless of the format of video, users can upload the video, select the person they do NOT want to be redacted in a video, and Pixelate will identify and redact every other person in the video – within minutes.

Pixelate is a web-based solution, so users can access it securely from their browser. There is no need to download any special hardware to their computer unlike other solutions on the market. With a pay as you go, or subscriber set up, anyone who needs to redact video footage simply logs in and uploads the video and Pixelate does the rest. Within minutes, a fully redacted video is available to be downloaded. The speed and flexibility of Pixelate as a video redaction tool is unprecedented and paves the way for future video redaction technology.

These new features mean that data professionals faced with the increasing demand for CCTV footage, and need to comply with GDPR regulations, can use AI technology like Pixelate to save time and money.

The future of video redaction

The public’s understanding of their rights to their own data, and how their identity is being captured is only going to rise. The H&M case shows that many people aren’t fully up to speed of rights in data protection yet, but similar public cases will only raise awareness of smaller cases, and the rights that every person has to their data.

Data and security professionals need to be ready to face this challenge, and despite the challenging climate the world is facing, video redaction technology is here to stay. Investment in AI technology will only rise as the demand increases for a smoother, more holistic experience of video redaction.

Ocucon is continuing to invest in more functionality to make the redaction process even smoother and smarter, and our latest development has shown more flexibility in how professionals can use such a service (including pay as you go options), which will only broaden as the technology gets easier to use.

In uncertain times, where professionals in the data and security industries need to be flexible and safe in their workspaces, cloud-based technology will be vital to keep up with the demand of subject access requests and video redaction.

GDPR awareness is on the rise, and 2020 has been a year of adapting quickly to a different normal in every part of life. Cloud-based, AI video redaction is just one example of technology available to data and security professionals so they can adapt and help the public access their data, regardless of format.

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