Aulnay-sous-Bois uses augmented video surveillance, but “does not want the Chinese model at all control”

In front of the RER station of Aulnay-sous-Bois (Seine-Saint-Denis), the subject does not seem to move more than that. Surveillance cameras assisted by artificial intelligence (AI) in the city? Nobody really knows. The opinions are not settled, rather positive on the whole. “A good thing for safety”says a retired couple. “Rather reassuring, as long as it’s not too intrusive”, thinks Ana, a 51-year-old Aulnaysienne. Only a 17-year-old resident stresses that he “do not need too much abuse” with this technology.

The city of Aulnay-sous-Bois has implemented algorithmic video surveillance (VSA) since 2021. It is one of the fifty or so municipalities in France that already use these so-called “augmented” cameras. A device today at the heart of heated debate, while the government intends to generalize its use in favor of the bill relating to the Olympic and Paralympic Games of 2024. This text, adopted by the Senate on January 31, and which will be examined in March by the deputies, provides for the experimentation of the VSA in France until June 30, 2025.

Presented as a tool to ensure the security of sporting (or other) events by its promoters, algorithmic video surveillance “undeniably presents risks for the fundamental rights and freedoms of individuals and the preservation of their anonymity in the public space”however, considers the National Commission for Computing and Liberties (CNIL).

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Hundreds of images parade on the screens of the Urban Supervision Center (CSU) of Aulnay-sous-Bois. It is here that the five hundred augmented cameras on the public highway are controlled by twenty-three police operators, twenty-four hours a day and seven days a week. A place proudly presented on the website of the town hall , which omits to speak of algorithms or AI, evoking only the “modernization of new analysis and exploitation technologies”.

“I’m not here to play sheriff from my office”

These technologies were developed by Neuroo, a French company specializing in the analysis of images from surveillance cameras, which sold its AI software to the municipality. The device alerts video operators when the algorithm detects a ” event ” for which it was configured: weapon, abandoned objects, illegal dumping, starting fire, raiding, crowd movement or gathering on the public highway.

After receiving an alert, CSU officers review the footage and decide whether to send a team to the scene or not. “The algorithm gives us information about suspicious behavior or people who should not be in a specific space, but it’s always the human, so the video operator and then the staff on site, who report the problem. ‘offence’says Michaël Sledz, CSU manager and video protection manager.

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