Peachtree Corners installs cameras to monitor use of masks, social distancing

Peachtree Corners is the first city in the country to use cameras to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

White inverted domes in Peachtree Corners City Hall lobby look like typical security cameras, but they’re gathering data.

"The camera recognizes just the shape of a human. It doesn’t do any facial recognition. It finds the shape of those objects and then measures the distance between them," Peachtree Corners Assistant City Manager Brandon Branham said.

Branham said he hopes the artificially intelligent cameras will help make the deadly and financially straining virus a thing of the past.

"One thing all cities need is people back to work. We’ve got to drive the economy. How do we do that? This could be a safe way to help us do that," he said.

An International company that specializes in artificial intelligence works with the city.

"We did a lot of partnerships with Canada the UK," Branham said.

The system can be applied to any operating camera. If people are standing too close together, a private alert goes off behind closed doors.

Constant monitoring can unsettle people.

"I’d probably want to know what they’re going to do with the information," Mike Sanders said.

Criminal defense attorney Lawrence Zimmerman addresses those privacy concerns.

"Is it an invasion of privacy like ‘I feel invaded,’ sure," he said. "Maybe you feel personally invaded, but ‘is it an illegal invasion of privacy’ is the question and it is not an illegal invasion of privacy," he said.

City leaders said the data is secure, for messaging and signage purposes only— that way, they said they can determine what they need to do to remind people to practice proper safety protocol.

"Most people know anyway there is no reasonable expectation of privacy when in a government building or really anywhere outside your home or most places that are commercial facilities," Zimmerman said.

"For the purposes they claim they’re using it for, there’s nothing nefarious from this point," he said.

City leaders vow the system is not an illegal invasion of privacy, but a new take on combatting COVID-19.

No one will be reprimanded for standing too close together or not wearing a mask at Peachtree Corners City Hall.

"I just feel like it’s not really going to change anything," Joanna Jackson said of the monitoring system.

"People are going to do what they want to do," she said.

The state of Georgia has not mandated the use of masks or social distancing, although it is strongly encouraged.

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