When Surveillance Cameras Pay the Cost of New Street Lamps

Are the energy and money savings from modern street lamps worth the proliferation of surveillance technology around the city? San Jose, California is considering just such a quandary.

1 minute read

June 8, 2017, 2:00 PM PDT

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell

Security cameras on a building

Marc Nozell / Flickr

"A proposal to allow surveillance cameras to be installed on [San Jose] streetlamps is raising hackles among privacy advocates," reports Ramona Giwargis.

The San Jose City Council this week considered the installation of surveillance cameras "as part of a bid to reduce the cost of replacing existing streetlamps with more energy-efficient LED lights."

The surveillance cameras are part of a proposal by Siemens to help the city cover the cost of upgrading a large portion of its street lamps. Giwargis explains more:

As part of Siemens’ proposal to install LED lights, the company said it would partner with anyCOMM, a Sacramento County tech company, to install “controller units” that can accommodate up to four video cameras on each streetlamp — with 24/7 digital recording capabilities and audio sensors. The city staff report says the cameras could help combat crime, solve investigations and deter illegal dumping and graffiti.

The proposal raises questions about where and when cities and residents should expect for "smart city" proposals to get entangled with privacy and surveillance concerns. Giwargis includes quotes from local politicians, the regional chapter of the American Civil Liberty Union, and the companies involved to shed light on the controversy.

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