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I am in a Canadian witness protection and recently went past a 360-degree camera recording video in the middle of a public street which I assume is for some art project.

In the witness protection program, I am advised to stay off social media. If my cover is blown and my location revealed, then I would need to relocate. I have not included the exact jurisdiction for my safety.

Is there anything I can do to have them remove the footage, or is it best to just pretend I am a normal pedestrian and hope no one recognizes me?

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    Do you have some kind of court/liaison contact that you can ask?
    – TripeHound
    Apr 12 at 21:00
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    My guess is that you have passed dozens of cameras recording video, and this particular one is the least of your worries.
    – Tiger Guy
    Apr 13 at 1:59
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    If you don't ask them, they'll likely automatically remove the footage within days/weeks. If you do ask them, they'll likely specifically keep it just in case.
    – Greendrake
    Apr 13 at 7:59
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    You probably shouldn't be telling us either, especially not on the same account you asked about walking routes in Vancouver.
    – OrangeDog
    Apr 13 at 10:09
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    Are you familiar with the Streisand Effect?
    – Trish
    Apr 13 at 20:28

1 Answer 1

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This problem is posed in the context of a high technology innovation, but the problem is not a new one.

Anyone in witness protection always faces the risk of being recognized by someone and that information being passed on to someone who is a threat. No secret is completely secure unless everyone else who could know it is dead. If your cover is busted by any means, low tech or high tech, which is sometimes just unavoidable, it is what it is.

Given the truly vast amount of information that a 360 degree camera in a public square can collect, hoping that no one recognizes you is probably not a bad strategy. Facial recognition software used by anyone short of the U.S. National Security Agency isn't all that it is cracked up to be in the movies. If no one knows where to look, finding this needle in a haystack is pretty unlikely.

You might want to discretely figure out who is operating the camera and how they plan to display the results, in the hope that they would gracefully agree to refrain from putting an image with you in it in a prominent gallery or news report on the project.

But any court action would probably do more harm than good. It would call attention to the existence of the problem in a much more searchable and much more likely to be monitored database than in one corner of one tiny moment of an obscure and immense video file. The bad guys are more likely to have a mole with access to court records than one with access to an art project's files.

Realistically, it is impossible not to live your daily life and not have video of you taken many times a day. Security cams are everywhere. But, for the most part, their feeds are not in publicly accessible and easily searchable places on the Internet.

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    Yes, from a (modern?) security viewpoint, "raising an issue/question" is worse than just acting as though nothing of significance has happened... I no longer have a clear idea of how carefully facial-recog software sifts through ... how much of? ... all the footage taken "everywhere" (e.g., in the U.S.), but I still tend to think that needles in haystacks are genuinely "essentially lost". Still, if "any major players" reeeeally are interested in you, then, yeah, leave town. Apr 12 at 21:08
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    In any event, the OP probably walked past dozens of web enabled cameras before they got to this one.
    – Dale M
    Apr 12 at 22:09
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    @DaleM: On top of that, such cameras have a hideously poor security track record, in general. It is prudent to assume that they are livestreaming the feed to anyone in the world who cares to watch.
    – Kevin
    Apr 13 at 5:03
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    Discreetly inquiring about the operator of the cameras is not something that the witnesses themselves should do. They may expose themselves while they do this. If nobody in the police ever thought about setting a specialised office to keep clean up a vast mess the witnesses ought to find someone to be ready in the background to cancel their tracks.
    – FluidCode
    Apr 13 at 10:28
  • It might be possible to get it removed, but I'd definitely speak to a lawyer on the best way to proceed. There may be a way to prevent the person with the video from talking about it or mentioning your name (e.g. a court order). In practice, I think many people would be willing to delete it, depending on the purpose; in some places there are already limitations on what data can be stored and/or a legal requirement to delete images of yourself if you request them. If it's for broadcast, permission would often be sought (if faces are shown).
    – Stuart F
    Apr 15 at 14:58

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