Demonstrators crowd an overpass as they attend a pro-democracy rally near the U.S. Consulate in Hong Kong. (Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
Whitney High School

Opinion: Smart lamp posts are unethical

Smart lampposts have been implemented in the streets of Hong Kong, in hopes of assisting police investigations, saving energy, and increasing surveillance in crime-riddled cities, according to the Hong Kong Free Press.

The Hong Kong government should immediately halt the implementation of additional smart lampposts, and instead, ensure that the current, already-built lamp posts are being thoroughly regulated.

Regulations should include approval from district councils for every lamp post, the removal of facial recognition capabilities and lastly, ensure that all video and audio recordings remain encrypted and unreachable by unethical hackers.

It is somewhat “backward-thinking” to completely destroy the already-built lamp posts, so the number of already-finished lamp posts should remain as is. However, I do not agree with further plans for building more. 

Hong Kong citizens have the right to the truth and be informed about matters pertaining to them. Yes, the Hong Kong government has a right to record the civilians, but only when the civilians are fully aware that they are being recorded and for what purpose. However, with the constant switching between the “on-and-off” status lampposts’ cameras (to save energy), there is no reasonable method to notify the public exactly when a lamppost’s camera is turned on and recording you, according to Emory Law. 

As technology improves in the future, the cameras will become smaller and smaller, until a normal lamp post will be indistinguishable from a smart lamp post that is recording civilians. Citizens will be recorded, while under the impression that the lamp post is simply “just another normal lamp post.” The public is being recorded, without knowing the time, place, future use, or purpose of the video footage, according to the Digital Media Law Project. Thus, the citizens have lost their right to the truth. 

The Hong Kong citizens also have a right to the privilege of saying, believing or doing anything legally, as long as no laws or rights of others are violated. This right is completely stripped when the government places cameras on every street corner, with capabilities of audio recording.

The citizens will feel pressured by their own government to act a certain way and refrain from saying certain opinions. This will hinder Hong Kong’s citizens’ fight for a pro-democratic government. I support the Hong Kong protests for a pro-democratic society, therefore I disagree with the smart lamp-posts, as the act of the government recording their own citizens’ conflicts with the democratic ideal of “free-will.” 

Lastly, smart lampposts are also extremely ineffective. With such low-pixel shooting, it would be difficult for the smart lamppost to even capture vehicles’ license plates, let alone the intricate details of people’s faces. Wrongful imprisonment and incorrect arrests can be made, as law enforcement utilizes the unclear footage to back their investigations.  

I believe the government should improve the already-implemented lamp posts, instead of focusing on building more.