Video Camera in 10-250 Broadcasts at All Hours

1497 10250
10-250, as seen on MIT Cable’s channel 11 shortly past midnight Tuesday.

A word of warning: if you’re in 10-250, you may be on MIT Cable’s channel 11. A camera that points at the front of the room often broadcasts to that TV channel, even long after teaching hours are done.

Last evening, some dormitory residents learned that MIT Cable was broadcasting, live, a couple chatting near the back of 10-250. The room has no indication that cameras are live.

The Tech tuned into channel 11 following a 10:44 p.m. e-mail to Simmons Hall’s social mailing list announcing that a couple was visible on TV. The e-mail, with subject line “put on channel 11 on MIT Cable …,” said in part “Live feed of couple (talking) in 10-250 … pretty creepy. I didn’t know there was a camera live-streaming 24/7 there!”

Shortly after The Tech turned on the TV, a Tech staffer went to 10-250 to warn the pair that they were being broadcast live to the entire campus. The pair appeared to talk for about ten minutes before the staffer arrived; afterward, they left. No sound was being broadcast.

The students were seated in the tenth row from the front, apparently the furthest back row visible on the camera.

The 10-250 camera is used to broadcast live lectures from Introduction to Solid State Chemistry (3.091) onto MIT cable channel 11. Often, the camera isn’t turned off afterward, and the lecture hall remains live on TV. Sometimes channel 11 shows live broadcasts of other events, or of the lecture halls where those events were held even after the event is over.

Visitors to 10-250 might not know that they are on tape. Last night, a notice that lectures in the subject Principles of Chemical Science (5.111) will be videotaped for OpenCourseWare was visible on the rear upstairs entrance to the lecture hall. But there was no notice about video recording at the primary entrance to the lecture hall, accessible from the second floor of Bldg. 10.

Other cameras record people in public areas of the Institute, The Tech reported last November, although those videos are not broadcast to the community. Cameras record people in corridors, stairwells, and other spaces in buildings 2, 18, 4, and 6, The Tech reported.

In 2007, no comprehensive policy governed how those tapes were reviewed. The Tech quoted Thomas W. Komola of MIT’s Security and Emergency Management Office saying that the prevalence of cameras in public spaces “is a problem.”

“All cameras should be on a unified policy” regarding when recordings are made and how private they are kept, Komola told The Tech, but no such policy then existed.

Neither Komola nor representatives from MIT Cable could be reached last night.