Gone are the days when cities used streetlamps to simply illuminate sidewalks and streets. Today’s streetlamps are being used to form an interconnected web of surveillance devices.
A recent San Diego Union-Tribune article revealed how San Diego police officers have used streetlamp video surveillance in at least 140 cases and sometimes as frequently as 20 times a month.
Let that sink in for a moment; spying streetlamps are real and police have already requested video footage from more than 140 streetlamps.
Lt. Jeffery Jordon called spying streetlamps “game-changing” and that is exactly how they should be viewed. Streetlamps that are designed to spy on the public really is a game-changer.
San Diego’s street lamps are equipped with ShotSpotter microphones that police claim are not being used to listen to public conversations.
Should we believe them?
Could police use ShotSpotter to listen to public conversations? Nearly a decade ago, the East Bay Times revealed how the Oakland Police used ShotSpotter to record public conversations.
It was only three years ago when the NJ Transit secretly used DriveCam’s LTYX cameras equipped with microphones to listen to public conversations.
So just what is law enforcement using these streetlamps for?
No one knows for sure, but a spokesperson for San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer said that a citywide policy to regulate the use of the microphones and cameras in streetlamps is “under development.”
The San Diego Union-Tribune claims that 100 police officers have direct access to streetlamp surveillance and said that nearly every one of the department’s 1,800 police officers can request access.
Just how concerned is the City Council that law enforcement is using streetlamps as surveillance devices?
Apparently not very much, as City Councilwoman Monica Montgomery admitted, by saying that she’s “open to exploring” oversight of the program.
In what dystopian nightmare are we living in, where listening and watching everything we do in public is “underdevelopment” or “open to oversight?”
Over the past few years, I have written numerous stories about smart streetlamp/streetlight surveillance.
Police are also using street lamps equipped with things like Smart Nodes and secret facial recognition cameras to identify Bluetooth devices and people. More recently, I warned everyone that law enforcement is using GE’s CityIQ street lights and Intellistreets to identify people. (Click here to learn more about SKYEYE streetlamps.)
But this story is far more disturbing than those because as the San Diego Union-Tribune points out, politicians and police think nothing of using streetlamps to track people in real-time.
“Streetlamp cameras allowed Detective Carlos Muñoz to track the attacker to a 7-11, where in-store cameras and a credit card purchase helped identify him.”
How could police track an alleged attacker to a 7-11 unless they have real-time access to streetlamp cameras?
Instead of sending warning bells off in City Hall, the city council plans on adding more spying streetlamps. And that should disturb everyone.
The city currently has rolled out about 3,200 streetlamp cameras and expects to have about 4,200 by next summer. General Electric and government officials have promoted the system as the “world’s largest smart city platform.”
Turning San Diego into the “world’s largest smart city platform” takes on a whole new meaning when you realize that the city has at least 40,000 streetlamps.
Can you imagine an entire city covered with 40,000 spying streetlamps? Can you imagine America being blanketed with more than 26 million spying streetlamps?
The prospect of having that many surveillance devices in one city is unnerving, to say the least. But the prospect of having 26 million spying streetlamps operating across the country is terrifying.
Editors Note: Some of the information collected through streetlight cameras almost certainly ends up in federal databases. The feds can share and tap into vast amounts of information gathered at the state and local level through fusion centers and a system known as the “information sharing environment” or ISE.
Fusion centers were sold as a tool to combat terrorism, but that is not how they are being used. The ACLU pointed to a bipartisan congressional report to demonstrate the true nature of government fusion centers: “They haven’t contributed anything meaningful to counterterrorism efforts. Instead, they have largely served as police surveillance and information sharing nodes for law enforcement efforts targeting the frequent subjects of police attention: Black and brown people, immigrants, dissidents, and the poor.”
Fusion centers operate within the broader ISE. According to its website, the ISE “provides analysts, operators, and investigators with information needed to enhance national security. These analysts, operators, and investigators…have mission needs to collaborate and share information with each other and with private sector partners and our foreign allies.” In other words, ISE serves as a conduit for the sharing of information gathered without a warrant. Known ISE partners include the Office of Director of National Intelligence which oversees 17 federal agencies and organizations, including the NSA. ISE utilizes these partnerships to collect and share data on the millions of unwitting people they track.
- Company Turns Any Camera Into an Automatic License Plate Reader - September 10, 2021
- Federal Surveillance State Empowers TSA to Control Entire U.S. Transit System - August 26, 2021
- Biden Gives “Five Eyes” Surveillance Consortium Access to Everyone’s Social Media - August 3, 2021