October 15, 2021
More than a decade after “smart cities” promised to transform cities, it’s clear their killer app is surveillance. For example, last summer the San Diego Police Department obtained footage of Black Lives Matter protestors from “smart streetlights” ostensibly designed for traffic control and air quality monitoring. Following shock and outrage, the Mayor of San Diego ordered the 3,000+ cameras turned off — but they stayed on, no longer collecting footage for the city or police, but for the cameras’ manufacturers. This is just one example of a whole raft of technologies — including cameras, sensors, and facial recognition — that threaten to destroy the anonymity of the public realm.
We’re joined by Rebecca Williams, author of a recent report on smart city surveillance for the Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs’ Technology and Public Purpose (TAPP) Project, on steps communities can take to stop harmful surveillance and reassert the public’s right to the city.
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