Big Brother Sensors Introduced in Chicago

Mike Paczesny | The Rundown Live

Smooth, “decorative aluminum shields” are soon to be placed on Chicago street lamps, their job is to protect and conceal a system of data-collection sensors that will measure air quality, light intensity, sound volume, heat, precipitation, and wind.

The sensors will also count people by observing cell phone traffic.

Another intrusion into personal privacy.

It is being called the “Array of Things” project.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel claims that urban sensing is part of his “technology plan”.

Urban sensing is the use of technology to monitor activities within a city for the sake of “urban policy making”.

This includes:tumblr_inline_n747mavQKZ1qcf9jk

• Economic data
• Urban economies
• City product investments
• Income disparity
• Financial status
• Living conditions within the city
• Infrastructure service
• Environment considerations

By collecting real-time data on city life, planners, lawmakers and tech corporations assert their necessity for change can be measured to facilitate the formulation of new policies and programs.

These sensors may be gathering too much personal information.

The first sensor is expected in place by mid-July.

Researchers are starting with sensors at eight Michigan Avenue intersections, followed by dozens more around the Loop by year’s end and hundreds more across the city in years to come as the project expands into neighborhoods.


Computer scientist Charlie Catlett told the Tribune:

“We don’t collect things that can identify people. There are no cameras or recording devices,” he said. Sensors will be collecting “sound levels but not recording actual sound. The only imaging will be infrared.”

Fred Cate, an expert on privacy matters from Indiana University’s law school said that:

“Almost any data that starts with an individual is going to be identifiable,” Cate said. When tracking activity from mobile phones, “you actually collect the traffic. You may not care about the fact that it’s personally identifiable. It’s still going to be personally identifiable.”

 “If you spend a million dollars wiring these boxes, and a company comes in and says we’ll pay you a million dollars to collect personally identifiable information. What’s the oversight over those companies?”

Catlett also claims all of the data collected will immediately be published.