Chicago Installs Watch_Dog Style Data Snooping Streetlights

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In a bid to understand its citizens, Chicago has begun to install a series of sensors that record life around the city.

The sensors, taking form in a series of decorative curved boxes mounted on streetlights, collect air-quality, light intensity, sound volume, heat, precipitation, and wind. They’ll even count the number of people walking by based on cell phone traffic.

While this may cause concerns that “Big Brother” is going to watch your every move, the sensors have been designed in a way that no personal information will actually be collected. They will simply detect a phone signal, but wont record or store the digital address of the devices.

With the data, the city of Chicago hopes to gain insight on how to make the city a cleaner and safer place to live for its residents. The planners also foresee a permanent data collection system that will allow researchers to conduct studies in a way that they wouldn’t have the resources to do otherwise.

Chicago night 2 600x337 Chicago Installs Watch Dog Style Data Snooping Streetlights

[via Wikipedia]

Still though, there are a number of people saying that the data collection could be abused. Gary King, director of the Institute for Quantitative Social Sciences at Harvard University, said “if they do a good job they’ll collect identifiable data. You can (gather) identifiable data with remarkably little information. You have to be careful. Good things can produce bad things.” There’s also concern of lack of oversight on the project, which could lead to companies paying the project to collect data they’re not supposed to.

All this said, our day-to-day activities are already recorded by a number of devices. CCTV cameras watch us in the streets, internet browsers record our search histories, and your phone is already storing your location data. At the end of the day, I believe these devices will do more good than harm, as it will let cities intelligently plan for the future.

And hey, we’d pretty much be living in Watch_Dogsright?

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