Singapore to Test Facial Recognition on Lampposts, Stoking Privacy Fears

Lampposts equipped with surveillance cameras are not rare or unheard of. They are actually quite common across metropolises around the world. New York, London, Paris and Beijing are some of the major cities that have real time video surveillance. These cities have lampposts, crossroads and various other fixtures, including civic and private infrastructure, equipped with surveillance cameras. However, most of these cities do not have any facial recognition technology in the backend. Only China uses facial recognition systems for its surveillance networks in Beijing and Shanghai.

The government of Singapore has expressed its intent to test surveillance cameras with backend facial recognition software on all its lampposts. There are around a hundred and ten thousand lampposts on the island nation. The testing will obviously be limited to a few but the eventual plan is to equip all these lampposts with the cameras and all would be integrated into the same system. This move is being seen as necessary by some but most people are wary of infringement upon privacy.

The government has explained the purposes it wants to serve with such blanket video surveillance. The authorities intend to improve its understanding of crowd analytics and more importantly it wants a safer city. Video surveillance with backend facial technology can be instrumental to thwart terror attacks. Such systems can be very useful in investigations and forensics. The systems can also be used by law enforcement agencies to solve crimes that may not be a terror attack or related to extremism. There are many natural byproducts of such a network. The city state can understand crowd movements and ensure the transportation system is reviewed to meet the needs of the people. There would be real time inputs and hence there can be a dynamic system in the future. The lampposts are also expected to have sensors to operate the lights and count the number of electric vehicles or scooters. The government also plans to install sensors in the lampposts that would be able to test the quality of air, thereby offering real time data on pollution.

If the technologies are used for constructive purposes then there is really no need to be alarmed. However, with anything that is so obtrusive, there lies a risk of the power being misused. The ability of authorities to identify people in the crowd can be abused. Political opponents may be tracked. Peaceful protests may be thwarted. Free speech may be curbed. There can always be some vested interests that would want to exploit the system. Since there are facial recognition technologies available that can scan faces of more than a billion people in less than three seconds, one wonders if such real time assessment will lead to infringement of privacy for ordinary Singaporeans.

The government is presently welcoming bids from various tech firms. Some local and foreign companies have already placed their bids and a few others are contemplating doing the same. The lamppost as a platform trial is poised to be carried out sometime soon and its success or failure will determine the subsequent course of action.

About the Author

Morris Edwards is a content writer at, he writes different topics like Monetary Authority of Singapore Launches Anti-Money Laundering Unit, Singapore Ranks in Top 10 for Cities with Female Entrepreneurs and all topics related to Singapore Business and Finance. For more info about Business Registration visit our website.

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