A system called the sensor tricorder would allow individuals to scan locations with their smartphones to detect CCTV cameras and microphones, and receive information on how the recorded data was being used. Use would depend on manufacturers’ implementing the technology into their surveillance devices, however. New Scientist reports (in a dismissive-of-privacy-concerns fashion):
A new system designed to reveal when microphones, cameras and other sensors are recording could reassure those who are paranoid about their privacy.
Each device would carry a screen displaying a QR code, a kind of two-dimensional barcode that can be read by a smartphone camera. Every 5 minutes the tricorder system generates a new QR code that encodes a privacy report detailing the sensor’s activities, such as whether it is recording, where the material being stored and how long it will be kept. The report also includes a log of past sensor activity, so you can check whether you have been monitored before.
“This concept has enormous potential as a tool to assist privacy protection, but it does invite a number of risks,” says Simon Davies, director of international campaigning group Privacy International. “Chief among these is the real possibility that security and police systems will carve out legal or technological protections, effectively exempting them from discovery.” Furthermore, even if the system is a hit with privacy fans, convincing sensor manufacturers to install QR code screens in every device is likely to be difficult, unless they are legally required to do so.
The team will present the tricorder system at the HotMobile conference – a mobile computing gathering – in Phoenix, Arizona, early next month.