As LED streetlights proliferate, they come with the promise of more efficient smart city service. But they also raise new opportunities for surveillance.
Blinking down at passersby in traffic intersections and lining dark alleys, sleek, energy-efficient LED streetlights have begun to replace old-fashioned, glitchy ones. It’s part of a wave of smart city initiatives sweeping the country: Already, LEDs are strung above parts of places like Baltimore, San Diego, Kansas City and Bethlehem. Now, Portland, Maine, is in a race with Schenectady and several other cities to become the first to convert their entire light grid.
But as more communities adopt government-funded, eco-friendly LED lights as an environmental measure, some worry that the eyes on these bulbs may be a bit too literal. As they illuminate the streets, they could be watching—and recording—what happens below with attached cameras, microphones, and other devices.