Newark airport has bought into a growing market marrying lighting technology with data-intensive surveillance that many security and retail insiders see as a potential new frontier, while others raise questions about the invasive capabilities of an expanding panopticon.
The system of LED light fixtures networked to an always-watching wireless surveillance system that sends video and sensor data to a centrally monitored security hub, as detailed in a New York Times article Tuesday.
The network can “spot long lines, recognize license plates and even identify suspicious activity, sending alerts to the appropriate staff,” the Times reported.
But with primary concerns of radical new technology outpacing ethical conversations regarding that technology—see wide-scale NSA data collection, Facebook privacy settings and the implications of soon-to-be ubiquitous wearables like Google Glass—many are publicly asking questions about whether this progressive airport surveillance program is the latest slip down an unpredictably steep slope.
"There are some people in the commercial space who say, 'Oh, big data — well, let’s collect everything, keep it around forever, we’ll pay for somebody to think about security later,'" one consumer privacy analyst told the Times.
The Port Authority—which operates the airport—“will own and maintain the data it collects,” according to the Times, and law enforcement agencies would have to issue a subpoena or written request to access data.
The technology would help usher in a new era of “public safety, parking management, predictive maintenance,” one industry insider told the Times.
Cities like Las Vegas and Copenhagen hope to eventually use the technology to control lighting, play music or issue security alerts, control traffic, monitor carbon dioxide levels and detect when garbage cans are at maximum capacity, according to the Times.
The Times report, among others, however, allude to retail interests and manufacturers potentially putting the financial value of the collected information before the privacy concerns of private citizens.
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