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Recording image data from a mobile robot in public spaces

IRB visual imaging robotics AI/ML

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Angelique Taylor

Posts: 1

I am collecting image (RGB) data in a public park. We are mounting a camera onto a robot and remotely controlling the robot as it wanders around the park. The objective of our work is to detect/identify groups of people in these public environments. We are blurring out people's faces and not interacting with people at all.

Does this type of data collection require and IRB?

Thanks in advance!

Lindsay Dillon

Posts: 5

That's a good question! I don't know the answer but I think that other studies that have observed behaviors in public spaces like parks or airports have needed IRB approval when people are observing and coding. Perhaps you can look into SOPARC or SOPLAY which are tools to observe play, PA, in public spaces. I've been a part of research studies that have used outward facing cameras or video cameras and we've had to get IRB approval to conduct that research. Good luck!

Katie Crist

Posts: 6

Here is a link to a decision chart that might be helpful.
I'm not sure what process you will be using to blur out faces, but I would assume that would be a post-data collection step and thus individuals could be identified. If you're somehow blurring faces during collection and there will not be an identifiable file, perhaps it would not be considered Human Subjects research.

Rubi Linares-Orozco

Posts: 34

Great Question- and the answer may depend on the details of your study.

Typically public observation studies are Exempt (Cat 2)
"Educational Tests (Cognitive, Diagnostic, Aptitude, Achievement), Survey Procedures, Interview Procedures, or Observation of Public Behavior: Research involving these procedures is exempt if: (a) the information obtained is recorded in such a manner that subjects cannot be identified, directly or through identifiers linked to the subjects; or (b) any disclosure of the subject’s responses outside of the research could not reasonably place the subject at risk of criminal or civil liability or be damaging to the subject’s
financial standing, employability, or reputation."

Public behavior refers to behavior taking place in a publicly accessible location in which the subject does not have an expectation of privacy (e.g., a public plaza or park, a street, a building lobby, a government building). If subjects have a reasonable expectation of privacy at the location where the researcher is conducting the observation, the project may not be considered exempt.

Research involving surveys or interviews with children or observation of public behavior when investigators interact with the children typically does not qualify for exemption.

-- so you for your study you will want to have a management plan to blur images, potentially remove "children" from recordings, etc.

Also, you may want to inquire if your state has any "recording" laws (CA does) that would require you to provide disclosures/postings/ or community meetings.

Good luck,
~ Rubi