LANSING, Mich. — If you're on Michigan State University's campus, you're likely on camera.
MSU has at least 1,038 surveillance cameras on its East Lansing campus and likely more. An MSU police official said they don't keep records of extra cameras placed on all campus buildings and inside businesses on campus.
"We have a very robust system of security cameras in place at Michigan State University," said Michigan State University Public Information Officer Captain Chris Rozman. "Most of those cameras are located at our sporting and entertainment venues."
More than 1,000 cameras on campus may seem like a lot. Turns out that, compared to other schools in Michigan, it's not.
Central Michigan University said they have 1,350 security cameras between their Mount Pleasant and Saginaw campuses. Grand Valley State University said they have about 1,500 cameras between their Allendale, Grand Rapids, and health campuses.
The University of Michigan said they have about 2,800 cameras between all their campuses.
CMU said that outdoor crime numbers have gone down as the university has added more cameras over the last 10 years.
Rozman said crimes on MSU's campus are usually pretty minor, but the cameras have helped.
"Mostly, those are property crimes," he said. "We've solved a couple cases in the last few years of cars that have been broken into that the event has actually been captured on a surveillance camera. It's very effective for us."
MSU would not share the precise locations of its thousand-some cameras, saying it would compromise security on campus.
However, Amelia Vance, director of youth and education at the Future of Privacy Forum, said it's not necessarily the number of cameras people should be looking at.
"What is new is what is being added on to those surveillance cameras in many cases, which is capabilities such as facial recognition," said Vance.
According to the group Fight for the Future, there are already universities in the United States that use facial recognition technology on campus.
Their website, banfacialrecognition.com, lists 14 U.S. colleges that use facial recognition systems, including Iowa State University, the University of Alabama, and Grand Valley State University here in Michigan.
Grand Valley spokeswoman Dottie Barnes said the university doesn't maintain a database of images and their system only stores data for 30 days. Officials from other Michigan universities interviewed for this article said their schools don't use facial recognition technology at all, however, most use some form of motion detection.
"I think the standard surveillance camera isn't necessarily something that a lot of privacy advocates or students are worried about," Vance said. "Not compared to this much more sophisticated type of technology that could pose a lot more harm to student privacy."
Xiaoming Liu is a professor at MSU who studies facial recognition technology.
He said we do need to be careful.
"I think how it is being utilized should be regulated, right?" he said. "There should be a certain committee, maybe to look at any analysis you potentially will need done on those cameras, and decide what should be done, what should not be done."
The technology is here, experts said, but how we use it needs to be addressed.
"They need to make sure that students are going to trust that these cameras will be used appropriately," Vance said.
MSU said there is no one monitoring their cameras, they're there for playback but can be viewed live.
Rozman said they do plan to add more cameras in the future.
"It's always ongoing. It's something that doesn't have a date, necessarily," he said. "We are always constantly re-evaluating what we have in place, and looking if we can better that operation."
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