Big Brother Sleeps During the Day in Brookline, But Awakes as Night Falls

By Matthew Harwood

In the summer of 2009, the residents of Brookline, Massachusetts, revolted against their police department’s installation of surveillance cameras throughout the town. But police were eventually able to win over the townspeople thanks to a new privacy-protecting technology that addressed the public’s concerns.

The camera’s savior was Port Washington, New York-based SituCon Systems, Inc., and its SituCam solution, which provides software-controlled mechanical eyelids for surveillance cameras. SituCon President Seth Cirker, a father of three, says he originally developed SituCam as part of an emergency notification solution for school classrooms after continuously hearing about incidents of school violence.

He describes the eyelids as the perfect compromise for Brookline, a local government searching for a middle ground between privacy and public-safety. During the day, Brookline residents can look up at the town’s 11 cameras, see the eyelids closed, and know they aren’t being surreptitiously watched. At night, police “wake up” the cameras and have a surveillance tool that can help them solve crimes.

SituCam also provides a public-safety exception. When an emergency occurs, vetted police officers have the ability to click an icon on their desktop to open the eyelids, immediately gain situational awareness, and begin recording what’s occurring at 11 intersections across town.

The technology offered a way to end a battle between Brookline’s privacy and public-safety advocates that began in 2008 when the Metro Boston Homeland Security Region—made up of Brookline and eight other cities and towns—voted to use Department of Homeland Security Urban Area Security Initiative funds to construct a camera network for monitoring evacuation routes out of the metropolitan area in case of a natural disaster or a terrorist attack.

(To finish reading "Put a Lid on It," from the December 2010 issue of Security Management, click here.)

♦ Photo of SituCam in "awareness mode" by SituCon Systems, Inc.


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