Peekaboo: Researching the Cameras on the Campus

Take a look around our buildings and try to count how many sensors there are and guess the function of this sensor. Do you feel safer knowing that all kinds of sensors monitor your movements and behaviour?

The university campus benefits greatly from these sensors, which monitor the presence of students and staff in the AUAS buildings. The data can be used to measure the occupancy of certain areas, to divide the classes into the different buildings and, of course, to create a feeling of security for everyone who wants to use our campus.

This is done with a diverse network of sensors that are both visible and invisible. Some sensors are well known, such as cameras and smoke detectors. However, there are also a few sensors where it is not immediately clear what information they collect. Think of sensors for temperature and movement. Would you recognize them?

The Digital Society School’s “Physical CyberSecurity” project conducts research into cyber-surveillance and its consequences. The first step in the research was to find out what we, HvA students and employees, think about surveillance. The team took a shocking approach: 3D printed fake cameras were hung in places where most students wouldn’t expect them. Interested individuals were sent to a survey by means of a QR code. The main purpose of this survey was to find out to what extent people feel safe under surveillance (or not) and why.


The first form of surveillance that the team focused on is the camera. We all know the form that camera surveillance has taken in countries such as China. We, too, may (or should) be concerned about this technology being developed and then deployed in our environment without consent. For example, think of; how Schiphol is implementing facial recognition in collaboration with travel organizations, to identify travellers without needing a physical passport. But what exactly happens to that data? Who holds this data? Is this data stored securely?

The research of the ‘Physical CyberSecurity Project’ is to translate future concerns about surveillance into a context that is relevant for now. The scenario that the team tested is a scenario where facial recognition surveillance has been fully implemented in our lives. A scenario where there are even cameras in the most intimate places, including the toilet.

In general, cameras contribute to a sense of security, but as described earlier, these cameras become smarter and the information more sensitive. It is important to know what is stored, when, by whom and why. The research team, therefore, focused on a small survey on surveillance cameras and data collection awareness. You may have seen this survey. They are hung on the wall in the form of stickers and posters with QR codes, in some cases a fake camera was attached to attract attention.

The responses to the survey provided valuable insights into our sense of security, surveillance cameras, and the usefulness of surveillance. For example, 44% of respondents feel safer when there is some form of surveillance in public areas.

Another question that yielded an interesting result was “who has the rights to your data?”. The most common answer was ‘companies’, followed by ‘governments’. After that, according to the respondents, third parties would have the rights to personal data and last, the user himself. A question you can ask is whether we trust companies and governments with all our personal information and whether we can still do so in the future.

When asked “do you feel monitored”, over 40% answered yes, while 30% said no and the rest do not know - or do not want to know. In addition to a large number of responses to the survey, a significant amount of complaints have also been received regarding the fake cameras, a response that the team anticipated and also attempted to provoke. It shows that people are actually concerned about surveillance when confronted with a camera in a place where privacy should be guaranteed.