What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. Maybe, if you’re lucky. The City of Las Vegas has started installing new Intellistreet streetlights that can do more than just illuminate the street. These wireless LED lights can play music, interact with pedestrians, and are even equipped with a video panel that displays important information such as weather and police alerts or traffic information. As an added bonus, these lights are also equipped to stream live video of the surrounding area (meaning they are connected to the internet). The problem? Streaming live video means they can record video and audio, which means what you are doing could be caught on camera.
Neil Rohleder, an official with the Public Works Department, told Vega’s Channel 3 news “We want to develop more than just a street light component. We want to develop an experience for the people who come downtown.” He reassured the station that the intent with the new lights is not to invade people’s privacy.
While the new Intellistreet lights can be equipped with surveillance equipment and the creator of the lights proclaims they can be used to assist Homeland Security, Jorge Servantes, the Public Works Director, assured Channel 3 News that “Right now our intention is not to have any cameras or recording devices. It’s just to provide output out there, not to get any feed or video feed coming back.”
Concerned that you could be captured on video while in downtown Vegas? In light of what all these lights can do and the fact they have been touted by their creator to help Homeland Security, Daphne Lee — a civil rights activist — is speaking out. She told News 3 the technology could track you from the moment you leave your home until the moment you get back to your home.
“At what point do we say this is the land of the free,” She explains. “People have a right to a reasonable amount of privacy.” And we are with Lee on this one. Servantes says “right now” we don’t intend on using the cameras or recording devices of these lights. But what about in the future? What happens when someone changes their mind? Will we even be told?
On the bright side (pun intended), the new streetlights are more energy efficient than before, saving more than 50% on energy costs. And the creator of the Intellistreet lights claims that the system is designed to shut down if hacking occurs. So you don’t have to worry about a 15-year-old kid hacking into a streetlight and spying on you while you walk your dog; you just have to worry about a 40-year-old NSA analyst watching as you pick your nose.