The lamp posts along Chicago’s Michigan Avenue are about to get a controversial makeover. By mid-July, they will feature sensor boxes that have the ability to collect data about the city’s air quality, humidity, sound volume … and cell phone traffic.
According to The Chicago Tribune, some experts warn that such data collection efforts “pose concerns of a Big Brother intrusion into personal privacy.”
“Almost any data that starts with an individual is going to be identifiable,” explained Fred Cate, an expert on privacy matters related to technology, who teaches at Indiana University’s law school. “You may not care about the fact that it’s personally identifiable. It’s still going to be personally identifiable.”
However, the leaders of the “Array of Things” project insist that they designed the lamp post sensors to provide strictly anonymous information that will serve to make Chicago safer, cleaner and more efficient.
“We don’t collect things that can identify people. There are no cameras or recording devices,” computer scientist Charlie Catlett said in defense of the project.
Still, privacy advocates remain skeptical about the cutting-edge technology.
Gary King, the director of the Institute for Quantitative Social Sciences at Harvard University, told The Chicago Tribune, “You have to be careful. Good things can produce bad things.”