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Privacy in video surveillance

In many places around the world (both in the public and private spheres), there are rules and regulations from local/regional governments and trade unions concerning video surveillance and privacy. If you have a need for remote monitoring, but also a requirement to address privacy issues, there are more solutions than ever to help you address them.

Options include masking fixed areas in the camera view, anonymizing people through dynamic masking or thermal imaging, and using radar technology. Such solutions enable remote monitoring to take place while addressing privacy regulations that place restrictions on the collection of personally identifiable data.

When there is a need to safeguard the privacy of bystanders in video to be exported, video redaction support in video management software is also available.

Static privacy masking

Static privacy masking is ideal for use indoors and outdoors, in situations where there is a defined area of the camera view where you have no need or right to monitor, such as a neighboring property.

Static privacy masking permanently blocks a selected area from view. Since the mask is burned into all video streams from the camera (live or recorded), there is no way to unmask it once the video is generated, guaranteeing privacy where required.

Static privacy masking has long been a standard feature in Axis network video products. Newer fixed and pan-tilt-zoom (PTZ) cameras support not only simple opaque blocks, but also mosaic or pixelation for masking an area. The mosaic masking allows a predefined area of the camera view to be shown in very low resolutions. With mosaic masking, you can see movements from any activity in the pixelated area but not personally identifiable details. Newer cameras also support masking with polygonal shapes for more flexible and precise coverage.

For PTZ cameras, blocking views of unintended areas is especially important given their ability to zoom in on details over long distances and their wide area coverage. In a PTZ camera, static privacy masking is fixed to the camera’s coordinate system, ensuring that the masking is maintained in the same area of the scene, even as the camera’s field of view changes through panning, tilting and zooming.

Dynamic masking

Dynamic masking using the edge-based AXIS Live Privacy Shield application on visual cameras allows you to see movements or activities while safeguarding privacy. The license-free application offers two methods of dynamic masking: motion-based for masking all moving objects in indoor scenes with good, stable lighting, and AI-based for masking humans or the inverse (background) in near-range indoor or outdoor scenes. You can also choose to have the application simultaneously deliver a separate video stream with no masking, so authorized viewers can access details for forensic purposes in case of an incident.

Thermal video

In challenging indoor and outdoor scenes – with or without light, and for use cases with high privacy requirements, thermal cameras may be the ideal choice. Thermal cameras let you detect – and act on – incidents while ensuring complete anonymity for individuals. The technology uses heat generated by animate and inanimate objects to produce images. Only shapes – moving or not – are captured, ensuring that no personally identifiable details are ever generated.


Radar technology with intelligent algorithms offers a solution for detecting movement and triggering alarm events without the collection of personally identifiable data. At a place like a community outdoor swimming pool where there may be privacy concerns, a network radar-based motion detector can help secure the area during after hours by detecting intrusions and automatically alerting security and activating a loudspeaker.

Axis network radar detector is ideal for outdoor use in any weather, day or night. It can provide information on the detected object’s exact position, speed and angle of movement. Since it is not sensitive to things like moving shadows, light beams, small animals or insects, this translates to fewer false alarms and more accurate detection. While the detector doesn’t provide visual confirmation, it can coordinate with a pan-tilt-zoom camera and integrate with a video management system to enhance security. The radar-based detector can be used as a standalone product or as a complement to a video surveillance system.

Video redaction

Before sharing video material, you may need to mask individuals and areas in the video that are not of interest to an investigation in order to comply with regulations that protect the privacy of bystanders. The video redaction function in AXIS Camera Station video management software allows you do this in an easy and intuitive way. You can, for example, mask only selected moving objects or mask all still and moving objects except persons of interest.

Data protection

While data protection is not dealt with here, how video surveillance data is handled is also an important aspect of ensuring privacy protection. See Cybersecurity to learn more about it.