When eyes in the sky start looking right at you

Topher Haddad, left, and Winston Tri, two of the founders of Albedo, in Austin, Texas, on Feb. 18, 2024. New satellites that orbit the Earth at very low altitudes may result in a world where nothing is really off limits. [Dimitri Staszewski/The New York Times]

For decades, privacy experts have been wary of snooping from space. They feared satellites powerful enough to zoom in on individuals, capturing close-ups that might differentiate adults from children or suited sunbathers from those in a state of nature.

Now, quite suddenly, analysts say, a startup is building a new class of satellite whose cameras would, for the first time, do just that.

"We're acutely aware of the privacy implications," Topher Haddad, head of Albedo Space, the company making the new satellites, said in an interview. His company's technology will image people but not be able to identify them, he said. Albedo, Haddad added, was nonetheless taking administrative steps to address a wide range of privacy concerns.

Anyone living in the modern world has grown familiar with diminishing privacy amid a surge in security cameras, trackers built into...

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