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Measure the Future: Privacy and More Details…


I realized a few weeks ago that I haven’t said nearly enough about the technology and plans for Measure the Future. Mostly I haven’t because I’m in crazy ramp-up mode, trying to get technology sorted, read All The Things about computer vision and OpenCV and SimpleCV, get some input from my Alpha testers, and generally keep the fires stoked and burning on the project. If I expect the library community to be excited about the work I’m doing, I need to get some of the things out of my head where you can all see them and, hopefully, help make them better.

The thing that I’ve gotten the most comments and emails about is the degree to which Measure the Future is “creepy.” There is both and implicit and explicit expectation of privacy in information seeking in a library, and when someone says they are thinking about putting cameras in and watching patron behavior…well, I totally see why some people would characterize that as creepy.

So here’s why what I am planning isn’t creepy. At least, I don’t think so.

What I want to do is measure movement of people through buildings, as a first step towards better understanding how the library building is used. There are dozens of ways this can be done, and among the ones that I’ve had suggested to me or asked about in the last month include:

  • Infared sensors
  • Lasers
  • Ultrasound sensors
  • Wifi skimming
  • iBeacons