You might think that the whole point of surveillance cameras was to, y'know, watch people. But what if we were actually edited out of the street scenes they show?

That's what San Francisco-based Prism Skylabs is doing, reports New Scientist. The idea is fairly simple, though not necessarily reassuring. You see, the company's tech, used in retail stores, provides such detail that it can be used to monitor minute details of how customers navigate shops, even detecting what products they pick up and how long they look at them.

Realizing that that in itself is pretty creepy, Prism Skylabs decided to let its customers "see those details but use privacy features to remove people from those images." In other words, the technology still provides the same analytical insight, but it also preserves the privacy of the people being filmed.

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It works pretty well, as you can see in the video above, using a stationary background image to paint over more dynamic features like people and vehicles. Perhaps best, the cameras do it themselves, on the fly, meaning that the company only ever transmits footage with people removed.

It'a a wonderful idea, but it remains to be seen whether it will be embraced. We can hope. [New Scientist]