[First published May 2nd, last updated October 5th, 2018]
Silicon Valley’s philosophy to “move fast and break things” may not be readily apparent upon landing on the Smart Cities Vision page for San José, but a closer look at key proposals reveals it’s likely in the mix. While difficult to know how day-to-day life will change as a result of living in a “smart city,” the issues described below are certainly worth learning more about. What should residents expect as tangible benefits? What will be the costs? What blind spots may exist among well-intentioned leaders making decisions, and will there be unintended (or consciously dismissed) harms resulting from these initiatives?
A precise definition of a “Smart City” remains elusive, yet what does appear at the root, is that 5G will be involved. A recent Bloomberg update documents tensions between big business and government in the rollout of 5G, with a focus on San Jose’s role in initially participating with, and then protesting, the Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee of the FCC. It appears despite the recent resistance, that industry dominance is not solely an issue within the FCC, but also influential in shaping local policies for 5G deployment.
…”For San Jose, the march toward 5G continues without the FCC. On Monday, the city struck an agreement with AT&T to install about 200 small-cell devices for 5G on light poles in exchange for $5 million in lease revenue over 15 years. Perhaps the worst part of the whole process, said San Jose Mayor Liccardo, is that most Americans aren’t paying attention: “When you’re talking about complex issues of technology and regulation, it’s often lost on the public just how badly they’re being screwed.”
According to a February 2018 report by Grand View Research, the global smart cities market is anticipated to reach approximately 2.6 trillion dollars by 2025. A summary of the report indicates key industry participants to include tech giants such as Accenture, Cisco Systems, Siemens, IBM, General Electric, and Microsoft. What appears missing in the summary, however, is the specific situation for San José, where apparently Facebook will also be a main driver and beneficiary of the Smart Cities plan.
A quote from the Smart City Team presentation in April on the Facebook Terragraph (millimeter wave technology) rollout reveals that “deploying at scale in a city has never been done before.” This alone should lead us to ask critical questions about the process and outcomes. To what extent have residents been informed about known risks and hazards of new technologies that they will apparently be subject to, and what kinds of concerns about safety, security, and privacy (or lack thereof) are being contemplated by city leaders as they make final decisions to either fully deploy or hold off on the Smart City experiments? Are cities with tech partnerships exempt from needing to uphold basic standards of protection of human participants in experimental research?
See the following overview of the Facebook Terragraph here: “Introducing Facebook’s new terrestrial connectivity systems — Terragraph and Project ARIES” and a video introduction linked to the image above. To read more about Facebook’s partnership with San José, see documents from the April 5th Smart Cities Meeting).
Below is a list of concerns related to the Smart Cities and 5G rollouts. Specific questions are provided at the end of this post.
A. Public Health Impacts:
1. Scientists and Doctors Demand Moratorium on 5G (original)
(Örebro, Sweden) Sept. 13, 2017 “Over 180 scientists and doctors from 35 countries sent a declaration to officials of the European Commission today demanding a moratorium on the increase of cell antennas for planned 5G expansion. Concerns over health effects from higher radiation exposure include potential neurological impacts, infertility, and cancer.” Dr. Joel Moskowitz, Director of the Center for Family and Community Health at UC Berkeley, recently announced an additional statement from the International Society of Doctors for the Environment and its member organizations in 27 countries adding to the call for a halt to the rollout of 5G. In the United States, the ISDE member organization is Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR). There are now over 200 signatories to the original appeal. See the main website here.
3. To learn more about concerns related to 5G and “Internet of Things” technologies, listen to the audio of the following Commonwealth Club discussion held on February 5th, 2018 in San Francisco, CA: ReInventing Wires: The Future of Landlines and Networks and read the report here published by the National Institute for Science, Law & Public Policy.
4. 5G Wireless Telecommunications Expansion: Public Health and Environmental Implications (in press), Environmental Research. Abridged version available via Bulletin of the Santa Clara County Medical Association, re-shared with permission from author: A 5G Wireless Future: Will It Contribute to a Smart Nation or Contribute To An Unhealthy One?
B. Big Data Security Issues:
The following screenshot is from the proposed Data Architecture Report with examples of the key platforms being proposed to house data (City of San Jose Open Data Community Architecture Report – 2/2018, p.5)
Below are examples of major security/data breaches from several of the proposed platforms:
- Amazon Web Services (AWS) Security Breaches
- (March 2018) System Shock: How A Cloud Leak Exposed Accenture’s Business
- (Nov. 2017) Uber Paid Hackers to Delete Stolen Data on 57 Million People
- (Nov. 2017) “Yet Another NSA Intel Breach Is Discovered on AWS: It’s Time To Worry”
- (September 2017) Data Breach Exposes About 4 Million Time Warner Cable Customer Records
- Google Security Breaches
- Hundreds of millions of passwords stolen from Google and Yahoo users in major security breach
- Google Security Breach A Warning Sign for Cloud Security
- Microsoft Azure Security Breaches
- One of the Biggest Accounting Firms Hacked After Basic Security Goof
- Security News This Week: The Deloitte Breach Was Worse Than We Thought
- Hadoop Security Breaches
- Big Data Breach: Security Concerns Still Shadow Hadoop (2014)
- CIOs Still Don’t Care About Hadoop Data Security (2015)
- Attackers start wiping data from CouchDB and Hadoop databases (Jan. 2017)
- Thousands of Hadoop clusters still not being secured against attacks” (Feb. 2017)
- According to Shodan search, unprotected Hadoop Distributed File System installations expose 5 PB of data (June 2017)
C. Privacy Risks:
Smart Cities Come With Inherent Privacy Risks, ACLU Says
Making Smart Decisions About Smart Cities (ACLU of Northern California)
“Smart Cities”, Surveillance, and New Streetlights in San Jose (Feb. 2017, Electronic Frontier Foundation)
Privacy International Reports (with key word search for “Smart Cities”)
- Smart Cities: Better For Whom?
- Case Study: Smart Cities and Our Brave New World
- Smart Cities: Utopian Vision, Dystopian Reality
- Surveillance and the City: Turning Urban Centres Into A Panopticon
- Digital Identity, Smart Cities, and Other Data Intensive Systems: The Implications
for the Right to Privacy
- 101: Integrated Policing
- Video: What is Data Exploitation? (To view, click on screenshot images above or title to the left)
Posted on the slide:
“Many questions remain for us to consider…
* Who owns the data?
* What is our retention policy?
* Where is it housed?
* Who are we sharing the data with?
* Should we have a data monetization strategy?
* How are we managing Big Data?
* Chief Privacy Officer?”
Please find the following questions for city leaders and the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors. (Responses will be posted as soon as they are made available).
1. Does the city have evidence to document the safety of experimental technologies being deployed in light of the biological risks/hazard warnings raised by over 200 scientists who have recommended a halt to the deployment of 5G/millimeter wave technologies? (See here, here, here, here, here and Section A above for more).
2. Have alternative solutions to high-speed connectivity been explored (outside of the FB Terragraph/5G/IoT rollouts)? Listen to the audio of the following event from the Commonwealth Club outlining science and policy gaps in addressing these issues: ReInventing Wires: The Future of Landlines and Networks and read the full report here.
3. Will residents be allowed an opportunity to “opt out” of having internet devices being connected to the Terragraph by the City or Smart City Technology partners? Or will everyone within city limits be subject to their information being swept up into the data-gathering structures?
4. How will the City of San José justify using platforms for Smart City data architecture that are a) explicitly connected to Amazon commerce sites and b) that have been repeatedly vulnerable to massive data breaches? (see Section B above)
5. What assurances will be provided to ensure data extracted from the Smart Cities program and/or devices connected to the Internet of Things/5G networks will not be used in ways that would harm vulnerable communities? (Click image below for concerns. See also Data Justice Lab and the Data Harms Record).
6. Eubanks’ recently published book,“Automating Inequality: How High Tech Tools Profile, Police, and Punish The Poor” documents ways that structural discrimination is being exacerbated by the introduction of new technologies and related policies shaped by algorithmic error and bias. What processes will the Smart Cities team enact to ensure algorithmic transparency for the public to know how data will being used in analyses or decision-making? Will the City of San José agree to abide by the following Principles for Algorithmic Transparency and Accountability published by the Association for Computing Machinery U.S. Public Policy Council?
7. Why is the City of San José partnering with Facebook to deploy untested Terragraph 5G millimeter wavelength technology “at scale throughout the city” given its clear record of betrayal of public trust with privacy violations that allowed data from 87 million users’ profiles to be abused and misused?
8. During the FB Terragraph presentation at the April 5th meeting, the Facebook representative indicated that specific data would not be extracted, rather that amounts of data sent/received would be monitored via the Terragraph. What evidence can be provided to verify such claims aside from the verbal promises? Have data contracts for the Terragraph project been analyzed and vetted by non-industry-funded privacy/security experts?
9. Will the contracts for the Facebook Terragraph partnership and AT&T 5G small cell rollouts with the City of San José include liability disclaimers similar to these earlier ones from telecom companies? If so, would the City of San José then be held liable in case of harm inflicted on residents as a result of the technologies being deployed (and would the city be able to afford such liability at a large scale)? Note that similar issues were raised when SB649 was considered at the State level and was eventually vetoed by Governor Brown.
10. With the exception of four city employees working on the Smart Cities project and the Mayor, San José’s Smart Cities Advisory Board consists entirely of individuals from the tech industry without any representation from community based organizations, academics, scientists, public health professionals, independent privacy/security experts, or civil/human rights organizations. How will city leaders be more intentional about structurally integrating community into the process of decision-making related to the Smart Cities Initiatives?
Smart Cities Advisory Board
Vice President, AERIS
Director and Head of IoT Investment Fund, Cisco Investments
Chief Technology Officer for Smart Cities, Dell EMC
Vice President and General Manager, IoT, Intel
Senior Vice President, ORBCOMM, Inc
Founder and Chief Technology Officer, RevTwo
Former Chief Technology Officer, PayPal
Vice President, CityNOW, Panasonic
For readers interested in more information about Facebook’s reach, see the following maps and analyses by the Share Lab: Research and Data Investigation Lab.
May 26th Update: Since the original publication of this post, concerns have also been raised about the use of facial recognition technologies throughout the Smart Cities projects (at the May 3rd Smart Cities meeting where Box software’s facial recognition was proposed in a pilot demonstration and more recently from ACLU documents that link the use of Amazon’s Reckognition software with Smart City plans in Orlando, Florida). The video below was originally posted to the ACLU YouTube channel with the title Amazon Sells Facial Recognition Tech To Police. More detailed information with concerns about facial recognition technologies can be found here and here. It is currently unclear whether or not the City of San José is using (or plans to use) the Amazon Rekognition facial recognition technology throughout the city. The video below from the ACLU does indicate that the City of Orlando is a “Smart City” that is already using the Rekognition technology.
…”It also already has surveillance cameras all over the city on everything from light posts to police officers. Activating a citywide facial recognition system, could be as easy as flipping a switch. Body cams were designed to keep police officers accountable to the public, but facial recognition turns these devices into surveillance machines. This could mean round-the-clock surveillance whenever cops are present. Imagine what that would mean for minority communities that are already over-policed.”…
The following is a quote from a letter dated May 25th, 2018 from US Congressmen Ellison and Cleaver to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos:
“According to a page on the Amazon Web Services (AWS) website, Rekognition is a “deep learning-based image recognition service which allows you to search, verify, and organize millions of images.” The same web page describes Rekognition as a tool for performing “real time face searches against collections with tens of millions of faces.” Amazon’s website lists the Washington County Sheriff’s Department and the City of Orlando Police Department as Rekognition customers. A series of studies have shown that face recognition technology is consistently less accurate in identifying the faces of African Americans and women as compared to Caucasians and men. The disproportionally high arrest rates for members of the black community make the use of facial recognition technology by law enforcement problematic, because it could serve to reinforce this trend.”…
June 2018 Update: The Smart Cities meeting on June 7th included discussions about the LED Streetlight conversions. Below are screenshots of slides from the presentation documenting maps of current lighting, proposed deployments, and projected costs. Interested readers can access meeting documents here. One of the public comments referenced an article documenting American Medical Association guidelines that were passed unanimously in 2016 given health and safety hazards related to the rapid expansions of “white” LED streetlights.
“The new “white” LED street lighting which is rapidly being retrofitted in cities throughout the country has two problems, according to the AMA. The first is discomfort and glare. Because LED light is so concentrated and has high blue content, it can cause severe glare, resulting in pupillary constriction in the eyes. Blue light scatters more in the human eye than the longer wavelengths of yellow and red, and sufficient levels can damage the retina. This can cause problems seeing clearly for safe driving or walking at night.”
“In the case of white LED light, it is estimated to be five times more effective at suppressing melatonin at night than the high pressure sodium lamps (given the same light output) which have been the mainstay of street lighting for decades. Melatonin suppression is a marker of circadian disruption, which includes disrupted sleep.”
If Option 3 is eventually selected at a cost of 30.2 Million dollars, the conversions would include LED posts with “Smart Controllers” that would apparently be able to easily add features such as “cameras, voice sensing, and wifi.“ The complication of this choice is that it would also allow for the dimming and color temperature change options that the earlier LED lights would not have. So should the City spend twice as much to add features that would allow for healthier color spectrum dimming yet also allow the surveillance capabilities? Or forego the color-adjusting features to save funds and safeguard against surveillance enabling options. It’s a double-bind. We can only hope that’s not by design.
October 5th update:
The deployments appear to be moving forward as planned. Councilmember Diep of District 4 posted the following on social media while on the dais during which time the Smart Cities meeting of October 4th was still in session. It appears he considers some aspect of the meetings to be joke-worthy given explicit mention of “#insidejoke” and “#smartcities” within a post directed to Mayor Liccardo, Councilmember Jones, and heads of the Smart Cities team. It’s unclear to members of the public if the high frequency of nervous joking among leaders throughout these meetings is because they genuinely find the topics to be amusing or if there might instead be a masking of discomfort in voting on policies they know to be unconscionable. The questions above remain unanswered.
For additional reading, see:
Smart City Systems are Riddled With Critical Security Vulnerabilities, ZDNet
Dr. Beatrice Golomb, Professor of Medicine, UCSD, Letter to Oppose 5G (SB649)
5G Wireless Telecommunications and Expansion: Public Health and Environmental Implications
Why We Should Oppose 5G on Health Grounds // Ronald M. Powell, Ph.D.
The American Medical Association warns of health and safety problems from “white” LED streetlights
Smart Cities, Social Impact Bonds, and the Takeover of Public Education
The 5G Appeal: Scientists and Doctors Call For a Moratorium On The Roll-Out of 5G
Smart or Stupid? Will the Future of Our Cities Be Easier to Hack? // The Guardian
Philadelphia’s $4,000 Trash Cans A Messy Waste
The Disinformation Campaign and Massive Radiation Increase Behind the 5G Rollout // The Nation [Investigative Report]
Why Smart Cities Need an Urgent Reality Check // The Guardian
The Color of Surveillance in San Diego // San Diego ACLU
Amazon Confirms That Echo Device Secretly Shared Users’ Private Audio
Amazon Needs To Come Clean About Racial Bias In Its Algorithms
Broad coalition demands that Amazon stop selling dragnet surveillance tool to the government, citing privacy and racial justice concerns
Policing The Smart City // (Joh, 2018; forthcoming) International Journal of Law in Context
Feeding The Machine: Policing, Crime Data, and Algorithms
Together We Can Put A Stop to High-Tech Racial Profiling // ACLU
Roxana Marachi is Education Chair of the San José / Silicon Valley NAACP and Associate Professor of Education at San José State University. The opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Lurie College of Education or San José State University.