Patterico's Pontifications


Hong Kong Protesters Topple “Smart” Lamppost In Fear Of Facial Recognition Software

Filed under: General — Dana @ 12:11 pm

[guest post by Dana]

In spite of the Hong Kong government claiming that “smart” lampposts only collect data on weather and traffic, protesters in Hong Kong were so worried about Bejing being able to surveil them through cameras on the post, the protesters took it down altogether:

Protesters used an electric saw to slice through the bottom of the lamppost, while others pulled ropes tied around it.

The demonstrators, who were holding up umbrellas to hide their identities, cheered as it toppled over.

They were part of a larger group marching to demand the removal of the lampposts over worries they could contain high-tech cameras and facial recognition software used for surveillance by Chinese authorities.

Here is video of the protesters toppling the smart lamppost:

There are currently 40 of these smart lampposts in Hong Kong. Soon, however, they will become a familiar part of the cityscape:

The semiautonomous Chinese city has said it plans to install about 400 of the smart lampposts in four urban districts, starting with 50 in the Kwun Tong and Kowloon Bay districts that were the scene of Saturday’s protest march.

Given what we know about Bejing, it would seem that organizer Ventus Lau is absolutely right:

“Hong Kong people’s private information is already being extradited to China.

“We have to be very concerned.”

In an interesting contrast to protester’s worries about the smart lampposts in Hong Kong, the EU is aiming to upgrade 10 million aging lampposts into smart lampposts:

There are as many as 90 million lampposts in Europe, according to the EU and three quarters of them are over 25 years old. Street lighting accounts for up to half of some cities’ energy budgets and simply installing energy-saving bulbs would save almost €2 billion ($2.3 billion) a year.

Under the slogan “a dozen things you can do with a humble lamppost that has nothing to do with light” the EU wants to upgrade 10 million lampposts, making them solar-powered smart lampposts able to deliver a range of smart city services.

As well as providing bases for a city-wide network of 5G connected sensors to monitor vehicle and pedestrian traffic flows, the now far-from-humble smart lampposts could host a free public WiFi network.

The EU says smart lampposts will improve citizen safety by delivering public information through digital displays and speakers as well as measuring air quality and monitoring streets for flooding.

Their sensors will have multiple uses from helping visually impaired people to navigate the city to alerting drivers to vacant parking spaces.

City authorities will be able to offset the cost of smart lampposts by using them to host digital advertising or provide charging points for electric vehicles.

On a side note: CCTV is already popular in parts of Europe. England alone has an estimated 500,000 CCTV cameras around London.

(Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.)


17 Responses to “Hong Kong Protesters Topple “Smart” Lamppost In Fear Of Facial Recognition Software”

  1. Europe welcomes smart lampposts. People fighting for democracy fear them.

    Dana (fdf131)

  2. Judging from availability of all-angle video of every actual and potential crime scene in the US, there is nowhere to hide here, either.

    Dave (1bb933)

  3. Smart lamp posts will def help solve crimes but potential for abuse/lost privacy is huge.

    Doubt that entire USA is covered yet.

    harkin (58d012)

  4. London is kind of creepy in how many CCTV cameras there are. I’d prefer we didn’t get to that level in the States.

    Nic (896fdf)

  5. Big Sister Is Watching You!

    nk (dbc370)

  6. they view 1984 as a how to manual, Michael yon has been a good perspective into how this fight is going, of course nbc takes the side of the Chinese regime against samizdat epoch times,

    narciso (d1f714)

  7. London is kind of creepy in how many CCTV cameras there are. I’d prefer we didn’t get to that level in the States.

    I think we’re already there, the only difference is that more of the cameras here are privately owned/operated.

    Dave (1bb933)

  8. @7 Maybe. Admittedly I don’t spend much time in cities unless I’m traveling. but when I was in London this summer there were more cameras in public spaces than I think I’ve ever seen anywhere. It’s been a while since I’ve been to Vegas, though. They might have more. 😛

    Nic (896fdf)

  9. I’ve added a video clip of the protesters toppling the lamppost.

    Dana (fdf131)

  10. @4. Thank the IRA and their annoying habit of parking exploding vehicles around the city during ‘the troubles.’ It’s rather sad as London, being the international cosmopolitan city that it is, was a magnificent city to just walk around– particularly the West End, w/no real concern for safety at pretty much all hours; the London ‘bobbies on the beat’ weren’t even armed. Back in the day, when we were living there, there was virtually no public CCTV surveillance system outside of normal traffic congestion points, the set ups at airports Gatwick and Heathrow, the system London Transport had set up in the Underground and along British Rail lines. Though new then, the traffic, track and tunnel cameras were rather bulky by today’s standards, too, very easy to spot and a pain to maintain as well. [We’d see crews tinkering with them often, usually due to weather issues.] Costly, too. Today the computer, camera and systems technologies are much cheaper and easier to manage so they have them peppered and perched everywhere. Sneeze and somebody sees it. But it was the influx of overt terror acts along city streets by the IRA that triggered it all– that along w/t 1980 terror attack on the Iranian Embassy at Princes Gate– which was just a few buildings west from where we had resided. Londoners were willing to accept surveillance as an element of safety. But yes, the lost charm and knowledge someone is always watching now is decidely creepy.

    DCSCA (797bc0)

  11. Here is a great link to Bloomberg TicToc’s video clips of what’s taking place on the streets in Hong Kong.

    Dana (fdf131)

  12. @10 It’s definitely much worse now that it was when I visited in the late 80s and the bad IRA stuff was pretty much over by then. I guess it says something about how people feel the need for extra security, even when the actual need for it is over.

    Nic (896fdf)

  13. Well there are something in the neighborhood of 30,000 al queda operatives in the country

    Narciso (942c04)

  14. @12. Never felt safer in any other major city then when in London– until they started that campaign w/those exploding vehicles. And the thing was, they didn’t choose traditional high profile places to park them– they’d pick a pub out in Swiss Cottage or a bistro in Chelsea– and ‘try’ to phone in an alert minutes before the blast. It was pretty unnerving for residents and pedestrians as you never knew when or where. The London police were determined to deal w/it too, from the get-go, having been caught up in an incident myself, very early on, over some model rockets and a littered pile of dead batteries in Hyde Park; not long after the IRA blew out a section of the observation deck of what was then known as the new GPO Tower in Central London. They blew up Mountbatten, a favourite of the Queen, in ’79 aboard his fishing boat as well… and there was that hotel attack in Brighton on Thatcher in ’84, too. The Brits were determined to quash it– hence, the cameras sprouting up everyplace. OTOH, have no reason to go back for a visit- can literally see what has changed– and what hasn’t, thanks to Earthcam and YouTube.

    DCSCA (797bc0)

  15. @14 Just looking on camera isn’t the same though. I’m slowly revisiting some of the places I went as a teenager and it’s interesting to see the changes in person.

    Nic (896fdf)

  16. @15. It’s ‘same enough’ for me.

    W/GoogleEarth can literally see the still-unpainted window frames in my old flat, retrace, step by step, my walk to the bus stop where I’d catch the 73 bus on Knightsbridge Road– and that Picadilly’s ‘I Was Lord Kitchner’s Valet’ is long gone.

    DCSCA (797bc0)

  17. If it works for you, good enough.

    Nic (896fdf)

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