By B.N. Frank
There’s no doubt that street lights are a good thing. But LED and “Smart” street lights are often expensive AND designed with cameras, microphones, data collection technology, and more.
In addition to invading our privacy, the American Medical Association (AMA) and other experts warn there are biological and environmental risks associated with them as well (see 1, 2, 3). Many Americans oppose their installation – including San Diego residents and advocacy groups.
Pushback against San Diego’s “smart street lights” program — which puts cameras on a few thousand street lights and collects data like pedestrian movements — continued Tuesday at a forum downtown where speakers called it intrusive and a data goldmine for the private sector.
Some of the street lights have already been retrofitted with the technology, but the coalition behind the forum wants a moratorium on installing data-gathering sensors until there is more public input.
Critics have raised several questions about how the data could be used, who gets access to it and who has oversight.
It’s been nearly three years since the city approved the project, which was initially presented as a cost-savings plan to replace lights on some 8,000 poles with energy-efficient LED lighting. Installation started last year but is not complete.
Earlier this year came the public revelation that the plan also included sensors for high-tech data gathering. The revelation led several community groups to come together to push back.
The city says it can take that real-time data in several applications for community benefit, including improving traffic congestion, making parking easier or enhancing public safety.
San Diego police have access to the videos, which were used in more than 160 investigations between August 2018 and September 2019.
Image credit: Pixabay
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