Widespread fear is mounting over new light bulbs being planned for installation across many cities in the U.S. The new LED light bulbs, which last longer and are more energy efficient than traditional models, come with hidden data collection ‘features’ that capture details of unaware citizens in their own homes.
This data collection, while allowing for remote control of lights and optimization of energy usage, will also allow authorities and electrical companies to track unsuspecting Americans everywhere they go. The creepy sounding planned upgrades to existing LED models are said to even include listening devices. In a quest to make the home smarter manufacturers appear willing to trade convenience for privacy.
The New York Times recently reported that a number of companies had expressed interest in “Smart Grid” projects so much that they had began investing in LED lights ahead of the planned conversion of major city public lighting systems.
Sensity, a startup that specializes in lighting technology, announced last week that it had received bids from major businesses such as General Electric, the biggest mall developer in the U.S. Simon Property Group, Cisco and top LED lighting maker Acuity Brands.
The new lighting devices have capabilities that include data collection and environmental sensing. The lights are even “smart” enough to collect data on traffic congestion, track consumers walking down the street, sense pollution, gunshots and even project oncoming vehicles. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has strongly opposed the systems and their reasons are well placed.
As it stands the National Security Agency (NSA) is under intense pressure to unravel its rampant illegal spying on American citizens and public distrust of large government technology initiatives is mounting as a result. When congress passed the Patriots Act, the NSA’s powers to listen in and even hold data on U.S. citizen’s personal phone records was ostensibly clipped but thanks to legal acrobatics, something the covert agency specializes in, the data collections largely continues unabated.
Credit cards transactions are tracked from gas stations to retail stores, internet companies stand accused of giving out client information without their consent and the federal courts can grant the government power to demand individual citizens’ phone data from phone companies. The ordinary American’s right to privacy has never been any more violated. And just when we thought it could not get any worse public LED projects, as well as in home fixtures, look set to become the next battleground.
New York City mayor Bill De Blasio announced that the city’s administration would be launching a program that would see the city strategically place 300 listening devices across the city. The listening devices will be able to use gunshot detecting microphones to better detect crime and can also record bystander conversations.
Already the listening microphones have been installed in major cities like San Francisco, Oakland, Washington D.C. and Milwaukee.
Adding up all these “security” devices, which are quickly becoming rolled into formerly simple lightening projects and the result is a complex web of spying and tracking systems that will grant authorities near unlimited powers to spy on and trace unaware civilians wherever they are.
Americans are now left wondering whether at all they have rights if the government tasked to protect these rights is the one breaching them consistently and unapologetically, even using mere lighting as a convenient excuse to eavesdrop.