Revocable Anonymisation in Video Surveillance: A “Digital Cloak of Invisibility”

  • Linus FeitenEmail author
  • Sebastian Sester
  • Christian Zimmermann
  • Sebastian Volkmann
  • Laura Wehle
  • Bernd Becker
Conference paper
Part of the IFIP Advances in Information and Communication Technology book series (IFIPAICT, volume 474)


Video surveillance is an omnipresent phenomenon in today’s metropolitan life. Mainly intended to solve crimes, to prevent them by realtime-monitoring or simply as a deterrent, video surveillance has also become interesting in economical contexts; e.g. to create customer profiles and analyse patterns of their shopping behaviour. The extensive use of video surveillance is challenged by legal claims and societal norms like not putting everybody under generalised suspicion or not recording people without their consent. In this work we propose a technological solution to balance the positive and negative effects of video surveillance. With automatic image recognition algorithms on the rise, we suggest to use that technology to not just automatically identify people but blacken their images. This blackening is done with a cryptographic procedure allowing to revoke it with an appropriate key. Many of the legal and ethical objections to video surveillance could thereby be accommodated. In commercial scenarios, the operator of a customer profiling program could offer enticements for voluntarily renouncing one’s anonymity. Customers could e.g. wear a small infrared LED to signal their agreement to being tracked. After explaining the implementation details, this work outlines a multidisciplinary discussion incorporating an economic, ethical and legal viewpoint.


Video surveillance Privacy protection Anonymity Data security 


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Copyright information

© IFIP International Federation for Information Processing 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Linus Feiten
    • 1
    Email author
  • Sebastian Sester
    • 1
  • Christian Zimmermann
    • 1
  • Sebastian Volkmann
    • 1
  • Laura Wehle
    • 1
  • Bernd Becker
    • 1
  1. 1.Centre for Security and Society, University of FreiburgFreiburgGermany

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