The Facts Regarding the Integrated Smart Camera Network

3rd December 2019 ,

3 December 2019, Johannesburg. Vumacam clarifies misinformation circulating via various platforms and media outlets regarding the Vumacam integrated smart camera network.

Vumacam does not have facial recognition technology enabled in its street cameras, does not profile, and the organisation takes data security and privacy seriously.

WHAT IS THE VUMACAM INTEGRATED SMART CAMERA NETWORK?

Vumacam has built the infrastructure to host an integrated smart camera network to assist with crime fighting initiatives across the city of Johannesburg.

“We acknowledge that the country is grappling with a crime pandemic and are confident that our integrated network of street CCTV cameras will go a long way to tackle crime. Not only as a deterrent but also to effectively apprehend perpetrators and do our part, working collaboratively with law enforcement, to get criminals off the streets.” Said Ricky Croock, Vumacam CEO.

One of the core reasons why Vumacam was created was to develop a single, regulated network of cameras that are compliant with personal information protection legislation.

All Vumacam footage first moves into a highly secure environment (in a Tier3 datacentre), then through analytics software that reduces footage reviewing to between 1%-5% through alerts that are only generated when pixel patterns differ, so if something unusual or out of the ordinary happens in a Vumacam area an alert will be sent to a control room in a security company; they will then determine, after viewing the feed, if it should be dismissed or investigated further.

Thousands of cameras exist in Gauteng, none are regulated, many don’t have tier 3 data storage solutions (as storage is very expensive) and it is unclear who has access to the footage.

DO WE PROFILE?

The majority of our customers use a software called iSentry. The iSentry system is completely non-biased. It is not pre-programmed to identify race. Unlike many other behavioural analytics software, iSentry is one of only a few that do not have any preprograming of what is deemed to be unusual behaviour thus removing any forms of programmed-in bias.

It utilises unsupervised Artificial Intelligence to monitor pixels, so if it detects unusual formations of pixels, that are different to what it observes 24/7 it will send an alert to the security company control room where the company can monitor the situation to determine if it requires intervention.

The alerts could be triggered, for example, if someone trips over as they walk, or someone being attacked and mugged in the street. Both incidents will generate an alert. The alert can then be looked at by the security company and either be dismissed or monitored to determine if medical attention is required, while the other can trigger further actions to apprehend a criminal.

The software used minimises human participation in the monitoring process, and therefore minimises human bias such as race or gender.

The cameras also scan number plates; if there is a wanted or stolen vehicle’s number plate and that vehicle passes a Vumacam, an alert will be sent out to the security companies and law enforcement authorities, in partnership with Business Against Crime operating in that area. Often criminals use stolen vehicles to commit secondary crimes. These can be prevented before criminals can commit that crime. This will also assist in recovering stolen vehicles and the perpetrators can be apprehended. The Vumacams are there to provide the infrastructure and video service to promote safer neighbourhoods.

What is important about this connected network of cameras is that security responders can track these wanted or stolen vehicles in real time as they pass through the entire network, this vastly increases the likelihood of apprehending the suspects.

VUMACAM RESPECTS THE PRIVACY OF CITIZENS

At Vumacam we understand the concerns of the public as it relates to privacy and we respect the rights of citizens to privacy as enshrined in our Constitution. We do not invade anyone’s private space or property.

At Vumacam we believe you should be concerned about data privacy. It is for this reason that all our clients go through a rigorous vetting process to ensure that they are using the data for the right reasons and that they adhere to the strictest data protection protocols. We have partnered with the best in the world to ensure that data is protected. We are not only compliant in terms of the Protection of Personal Information Act, but we have taken it a step further to go beyond the global standards of General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

We utilise the most advanced and secure hardware and software available in the industry, and we spare no expense in this regard. We only use tier three data storage facilities, the same as those used by the banks. We have worked with a team of outsourced experts with over 50 years collective experience in the data and telco space to ensure we implement the highest standards in cyber security.

Our cameras are not spying on citizens or collecting data for any kind of marketing analytics purposes. They face a specific direction and monitor public spaces to serve as a crime prevention and public safety mechanism.

FACIAL RECOGNITION 

Some commentators have gone so far as to allege the cameras utilise facial recognition technology to surveil private citizens and monitor their comings and goings. We can categorically confirm that this is not true. Our street cameras are not facial recognition cameras and we do not utilise facial recognition technology in any of our Vumacam street cameras. They are fixed cameras that do not zoom or tilt. They monitor a fixed public area.

Vumacam is not building databases on any particular citizen and have no intention of doing so at any point in the future.

While all number plates passing a camera are scanned, only if the plate is present on a database of known vehicles of interest (for instance the SAPS Unicode database of stolen and wanted vehicles) will an alert be generated to the security company. Once they receive this alert, they can access the image and decide on the appropriate course of action.

Users of the system in the security company are authenticated through our firewalled network, in real-time. Whilst the security company is able to rewind, fast forward and playback footage, they are unable to download and store the footage. Licence plate numbers are not tracked unless they are involved in a verified incident.

The Vumacam business model is to offer video management as a service. Vumacam provides access to its video feed to vetted companies who enter into a contract to abide by the very strict terms and conditions which govern the acceptable use of the footage.

A company will engage with Vumacam, and if successfully vetted, enter into a contract, which includes an agreement to be periodically audited by an independent external company to ensure adherence to the terms, which include data protection to prevent hackers or unauthorised use of the network. Law enforcement will have access to feed on submission of a case number or upon court order.

The dissemination of the footage recorded by Vumacam on its Smart Camera Network falls within the definition of ‘processing’ in terms of POPIA (see section 1 of POPIA). Accordingly, any sharing of footage by Vumacam is regulated by POPIA, and Vumacam and the party receiving the footage must comply with the numerous safeguards built into POPIA to ensure that no third-party data subject’s rights are infringed.

We make sure that no cameras have views into personal property. All cameras are positioned to view public space

We would encourage anyone who has concerns to visit our website or contact us directly.

“Everyday we receive incredible testimonials from our clients about the positive impact the cameras are making. By intercepting these criminals – lives have been saved and crime has decreased, this is a solution we are very proud to be a part of,” said Croock, Vumacam CEO.