On June 13, 2023, Dr. Sharon Strover presented a research talk titled “City Surveillance, Trust, and Public Engagement.” Organized by EFF-Austin, the local chapter of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the event was generously sponsored by and hosted at Capital Factory. Below is a short summary of the talk.
Many different entities in the City of Austin now deploy cameras, sensors, and alarms of one sort or another, but very few have been the subject of any public discussion. Matters of personal privacy intersect some of the data-gathering and data use practices in operation. As more technologies, especially those enhanced by the tremendous analytic and creative powers of AI, can be purchased and used in city systems, ethical issues regarding monitoring practices and data uses will crop up. Dr. Strover’s team has conducted focus groups with different groups of Austin residents (including EFF-Austin) in order to explore their opinions and reactions to many of the systems the city uses. They also assembled a case study of the library’s camera system (with its 456 cameras) in order to explore some of the values at work in that particular unit. They are planning an upcoming survey that continues to investigate how people think about the benefits of these technologies and welcome the opportunity to share their work with EFF-Austin and get additional ideas.
A previous version of the research talk was presented by the TIPI team at Austin Central Library as an internal event for Library and City staff on June 12, 2023.