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Are You Ensuring the Responsible Use of Analytics for Ai-Backed Surveillance Systems?

These translations are done via Google Translate

By: Jason Chiu

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In an era of digitization, artificial intelligence (AI) is increasingly prevalent in our daily lives. It’s also reshaping the energy industry by maximising operations and asset performance with advanced analytics. From personalized marketing to surveillance systems, the omnipresence of AI raises profound ethical questions. To ensure a balanced and conscientious approach, the concept and application of responsible analytics becomes paramount. This involves the application of ethical considerations in not only the collection, analysis, and utilization of data, but also a supplier’s core values and how they manifest in the product offering. The advent of AI-backed surveillance systems accentuates the need for responsible analytics. This article explores the principles of responsible analytics and their significance in the context of AI-backed surveillance.

Understanding AI-Backed Surveillance Systems

AI-backed surveillance systems use machine learning algorithms to process and analyse vast amounts of data, creating powerful tools for public safety, business intelligence, and more. These systems can recognize patterns, detect anomalies, and even predict future behaviour, making them a significant asset in today’s fast-paced, interconnected world.

However, alongside the potential benefits come serious concerns. Misused or unchecked, AI surveillance systems can infringe upon privacy rights, propagate bias, or lead to unwarranted conclusions. Although the popular image of AI is machines performing complex analysis and decisions independent of human intervention, the fact remains that the AI is programmed by a human, and therefore any biases that human (or group of humans) possesses may be introduced into the AI model, intentional or otherwise. Hence, striking a balance between the utility of these systems and the potential risks they pose is crucial.

Principles of Responsible Analytics in AI-Backed Surveillance

Respecting Privacy: Privacy is a fundamental human right. Responsible analytics in surveillance systems means that data anonymity must be maintained, and only necessary information should be collected.  Surveillance systems need to consider the individuals’ right to privacy, ensuring that their personal information is not unnecessarily exposed or exploited. Moreover, systems must be designed to secure informed consent from individuals where necessary, with clear explanations provided about what data is collected and how it’s used. The secure storage and transmission of data are also integral to maintaining privacy and preventing unauthorized access or breaches that could compromise personal information.

Transparency and Accountability: A crucial component of responsible analytics involves a clear delineation of responsibility. Organizations using surveillance systems must be transparent about how the data is collected, processed, stored, and most importantly how it is used. This transparency extends to the algorithms used in AI surveillance systems – how do they make decisions based on the data they analyse? These decision-making processes should be understandable and auditable to prevent misuse and ensure that the system works as intended. With the sudden adoption of AI (like ChatGPT), who is responsible for looking inside the black box and deciding what is inside is unbiased or valid, and if application of that AI goes wrong, who should be accountable? Accountability also means that when things go wrong, a clear entity or entities are responsible for addressing the issue.

Fairness and Non-discrimination: The design and implementation of AI surveillance systems should be carried out with fairness in mind. Responsible analytics ensures systems are reviewed systematically and audited regularly to detect, correct, and prevent bias in these decision-making processes. It requires constant vigilance and a commitment to fairness from everyone involved in the development, implementation, and use of the surveillance systems.

Purpose Limitation: Data collected for one purpose should not be used for another without appropriate oversight or renewed consent. This principle ensures that individuals’ data isn’t misused or exploited and that there’s a valid, specified, and lawful reason for data collection and processing. This limitation requires that organizations are clear from the outset about why they collect data and what they plan to do with it.

Proportionality: The level of surveillance should be proportionate to its need. Over-surveillance can lead to a disproportionate invasion of privacy, which responsible analytics seeks to avoid. This principle involves a careful evaluation of whether the benefits of the surveillance solution outweigh the potential harms, and whether there are less intrusive ways to achieve the same end.

Security: Data security is fundamental in responsible analytics. Robust measures must be in place to protect data from unauthorized access, loss, or damage. This security extends to all stages of the data lifecycle, from collection to storage to transmission, and even to the eventual disposal of data. Organizations must ensure they’re using up-to-date security measures and regularly reviewing and updating these measures as necessary.

Public Engagement: Responsible analytics recognizes that the public has a stake in how surveillance systems are used. Open dialogue fosters a surveillance environment that aligns with societal values and expectations. Public input can help create a balance between the need for security and the protection of privacy rights and can provide valuable insights into how these systems can best serve the community. Public engagement initiatives can take many forms, from public consultations to user feedback surveys, to community meetings.

Oversight and Redress: Regular oversight of surveillance systems is a necessary part of responsible analytics. This oversight helps ensure that the system is working as it should and that any issues or problems are identified and addressed promptly. If individuals believe that their rights have been violated by the surveillance system, they should have clear and accessible avenues to challenge decisions and seek redress. This could involve internal review processes, appeals to independent bodies, or even judicial review, depending on the context and the seriousness of the alleged violation.

Application of Responsible Analytics

Translating these principles into practice involves concerted effort from all stakeholders – tech companies, government agencies, and users alike. Tech companies must prioritize ethical considerations in their design and deployment of AI surveillance systems. Governments should legislate and regulate to ensure adherence to responsible analytics principles. Users, on their part, need to be vigilant, well-informed, and proactive in safeguarding their rights.

Several industry practices exemplify responsible analytics. For instance, some companies anonymize data before analysis to safeguard individual identities. Others make their AI algorithms transparent and auditable to prevent unfair bias and discrimination.

Challenges and Possible Solutions

Implementing responsible analytics is not without its challenges. Technical issues, such as the complexity of AI algorithms, make transparency difficult. Commercial interests and the competitive edge gained from proprietary technology can also inhibit openness. Lastly, legal and ethical landscapes vary globally, posing challenges to standardized implementation.

Addressing these challenges requires an integrated approach. Continued development of AI interpretability can enhance transparency. Legislative measures and international agreements can create a uniform legal framework, and a culture of ethical mindfulness within corporations can overcome commercial barriers to responsible analytics.

Even when legal frameworks to protect people are not in place, manufacturers can self-govern by implementing their own codes of conduct. Participating and adhering to global initiatives like the United Nations Global Compact are also beneficial to ensure ethics in analytics adhere to global best practices.


Responsible analytics in AI-backed surveillance systems offers a way to balance the benefits of advanced technology with the imperative of protecting individual rights. As AI continues to evolve, the need for ethical, responsible use of analytics will only grow. A proactive, collaborative approach can help us navigate this uncharted territory, leveraging the power of AI while ensuring privacy, fairness, and accountability. Responsible analytics is not just an option; it is an essential component of a future where AI plays an increasingly influential role in our lives.

Jason Chiu is the Professional Services Group Manager with Axis Canada. He has a background in IT and networking and has spent over 15 years in the security industry, from being an integrator, consultant, and manufacturer.

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