Chicago Serves Up Deep-Dish Big Brother With New Downtown Multi-Sensors

Urban engineering requires a lot of data to help cities and their denizens improve. However, the city of Chicago may have taken it into creepy territory with their new, discreet, downtown multi-sensors.

Ostensibly created to track data on climate, pedestrian movement patterns, environmental pollutants, light intensity, sound volume, and (of course, in Chicago) wind, the sensors are an interesting idea to monitor city elements in real time. The worrisome bit is that they also record the cellphone connectivity of passersby. Advocates are quick to point out that the sensors only monitor connectivity to wireless networks, not actual device signatures, but the element of privacy invasion remains.

Computer scientist Charlie Catlett, who has led the team working on this "Array Of Things" project, told the Chicago Tribune that, "We don't collect things that can identify people. There are no cameras or recording devices...sensors will be collecting sound levels but not recording actual sound. The only imaging will be infrared."

However, Gary King, Harvard University's director of the Institute for Quantitative Social Science, astutely pointed out that, "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."

The data grab is being promoted in part as a means to understand urban environments more thoroughly, and to make cities run more cleanly and efficiently. Hopefully this won't include raids from the Thought Police.

Will you be e-raided by the Array?  Image courtesy the Chicago Tribune.


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