Smart lampposts and privacy concerns

July 23, 2019 10:17
Hong Kong authorities have unveiled plans to install smart lampposts that will be equipped with cameras and sensors to gather various data. Photo: HK Govt

Hong Kong government said last week that the smart lamppost pilot program will be launched in phases.

In the first stage, traffic snapshots, weather information and air quality data captured by smart lampposts will be released to the public.

At a later stage, after obtaining public consensus, several other functions will be activated as well, including a function to detect vehicle speed using bluetooth device recognition, a function to detect car types using license plate recognition, and a function to video-monitor illegal dumping of industrial waste at blackspots.

Amid the plans, people are getting increasingly concerned about privacy as there are so many cameras and sensors to track what they do and where they go.

Meanwhile, the controversial extradition bill has triggered a wave of massive protests and violent clashes between police and protesters in recent weeks.

Some protesters may not feel comfortable with such smart lampposts on concerns that images recorded could be sent to law enforcement departments.

To resolve the issue, the government has to conduct a more thorough consultation and explain to people how privacy issue would be handled properly, in addition to educating the public on the merits of smart lampposts.

As an alternative, there are smart lampposts that monitor traffic using radar technology, which won’t collect visual data. Such arrangements can help mitigate public concerns about privacy.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on July 22

Translation by Julie Zhu with additional reporting

[Chinese version 中文版]

– Contact us at [email protected]


Hong Kong Information Technology Federation honorary chairman