Facial recognition software, one of the latest frontiers in big-money high-tech security, is not without its controversies, both local and national.
Last summer, Democratic senator Al Franken of Minnesota said he was worried about privacy threats brought on by the burgeoning technology, noting in a news release, "Facial recognition tracks you in the real world — from cameras stationed on street corners and in shopping centers, and through photographs taken by friends and strangers alike."
In November, retail giant Walmart caused jitters among some when it acknowledged to Fortune magazine that it was testing facial recognition to combat shoplifting.
"The company declined to discuss any specifics about how many suspected shoplifters it identified or describe the accuracy of the software," Fortune reported.
In San Diego, the technology garnered national attention last August when the New York Times spotlighted its use by police equipped with iPads.
"County documents show that since 2011, 26 San Diego law enforcement agencies used the software to try to identify people on more than 20,600 occasions — although officers found a match to criminal records only about 25 percent of the time," the Times reported.
Local civil rights lawyer Victor Manuel Torres told the paper, "The complaint is always that they did it and didn’t get permission. ‘The police put me in cuffs and I’m on the curb, and they pull out an iPad and are taking pictures.’”
Now San Diego has yet another high-profile connection to the video spy world.
According to a news release from the Avigilon Corporation of Vancouver, British Columbia, UCSD chancellor Pradeep Khosla has joined the board.
"Chancellor Khosla is an internationally renowned researcher, author, and educator with more than 30 years' experience in the fields of engineering and computer science," says the release, dated January 21.
"Chancellor Khosla has also managed advanced research and development projects for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency."
Alexander Fernandes, Avigilon's founder, president, chief executive officer, and chairman of the board, was quoted as saying of Khosla:
"His expertise in engineering and computer science, in particular with video analytics and artificial intelligence, is a valuable asset to Avigilon's innovation and growth."
Mahesh Saptharishi, an Avigilon executive, told the firm's blog that faces are just the beginning.
"How people walk, how people move actually are very unique to each individual, so you could combine facial recognition information with their body movements to uniquely identify them. And when you have two mutually exclusive pieces of validation that uniquely identifies you, the accuracy now goes up without the restriction of having a cooperative subject."
One of the company's current specialties is video security, with clients including San Diego's Metropolitan Transit System
“With its advanced video search capabilities, the Avigilon HD Surveillance System has played a key role in our ability to resolve conflicts and prevent criminal activity across our transit system,” Larry Savoy, assistant director of security and code compliance at MTS, was quoted in a company news release as saying.
The announcement of Khosla's board spot came just weeks before UC Davis chancellor Linda Katehi quit the board of DeVry Education Group on March 1, two weeks after taking the $70,000-a-year position.
“I initially chose to accept the appointment because I believed I could contribute to improving the educational experiences of the students attending DeVry institutions, but in light of a variety of other issues that have come to the fore, I have determined that I am unable to serve,” said Katehi's resignation letter.
The Sacramento Bee reported March 3 that Katehi had made $420,000 as a boardmember of publisher Wiley & Sons from 2012 through 2014.
The revelations caused Democratic state senator Marty Block of Chula Vista to question the longtime practice of the state's university chiefs accepting outside board seats.
“It’s become apparent in the last 24 hours that some of the CEOs of these campuses have more than one job and make a lot of money in other places,” Block said during a budget subcommittee meeting, calling for more transparency regarding outside compensation numbers.
“Chancellor Katehi is the case on the front page of the Sacramento Bee today and my guess is there might be others.”
As previously reported here, Khosla has served on the board of "HCL Insys Pvt. Ltd," according to a state disclosure document. He got $18,000 in compensation from that engagement, according to his 2014 statement of economic interests filed with the university.
Information regarding compensation Khosla may receive from Avigilon was not immediately available. His gross pay from the university is currently $455,274, according to a UC website.