Public voice concerns over Singapore becoming a police state with implementation of “smart” lamp posts

In a Straits Times report dated 8 April, it is reported that smart street lamp posts will go on trial in 2019 to fit lamp posts with sensors and cameras that can collect a wide range of data, which can be used to direct driverless cars, catch speeding e-scooters and even analyse faces, down to race, gender and age.

In a separate news, a student asked Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong during on Singapore University of Technology and Design’s first Ministerial Forum on Thursday (5 Apr) on what Singapore’s vision is of the balance between collecting data and respecting a person’s privacy.

“I think we have to feel our way forward,” replied PM Lee. “We want to make full use of the information we have in order to improve people’s lives, improve the way our society works, to make it a safer environment for everybody.

“At the same time, you do not want to do it in a way which is overbearing, intrusive, which is unethical.”

For example, the Government has placed CCTVs in many public places like void decks, lift lobbies and HDB blocks. “We need to know what’s happening in public places, in case there’s a riot or an emergency, we can respond straightaway,” he said. “But if we put CCTVs in front of your front door, or on your own corridor watching who’s going in and out, I think you would very legitimately be upset.”

The CCTV network, he said, has resulted in far fewer loan sharks operating in Singapore.

He added that telcos in Singapore know where the concentrations of people are and where they are going. “Can we make use of that without tracing this person, with this name … I saw him at this place with this other person …?” he asked.

“I think there are ways you can anonymise the data, sample it, remove the identifiers, and then allow it to be used by people who will use it responsibly,” he said. “I think these are things which we should explore.”

“I think we know what we want to do,” he added. “How to do it in a way which people find okay, and in a way which is safe … I think we have to feel our way forward.”


In response to the news, readers voiced their concern over how the surveillance device on the smart lamp posts will degenerate Singapore into a police state.

Wan Quan Terry Chia wrote, “Why are we wasting money on such useless things when we have better things to fix like the mrt?”

Arthur Ma wrote, “This is not a smart lamp post, it is just a lamp post mounted with CCTV and data capture device. And it is just a “beautify” name to tighten control of privacy.
I think Smart Traffic Light is more useful than lamp post to benefit people to cut down waiting time for pedestrians to cross the junction under the hot sun or rain, and also to improve traffic flow of the cars at the junctions.”

Brendan Leheny wrote, “Wait. Did they just try to hide the fact that these lamp posts have Facial Detection and Video Analytics? They really know how to leverage peoples lack of media literacy. Surprised indeed.”

Md Muzammil wrote, “Wow. How you turn a policed state into an authoritarian state. Kinda Reminds me of ” V for Vendetta” show. Everyone is watched and penalised. Also like hunger games. All aspects of life is controlled.”

Chua Kim wrote, “When all those “smarties” broke down, it’s the best opportunity to create chaos and crimes, and everybody just don’t know what to do. people will become nerds and dumbs on the streets, no more streets sense, no common sense, no initiatives. No life. No freedom. No Souls. this is the future of Singapore? Transforming everyone to become a “Product”?”

Lawrence Liew wrote, “I feel it’s better to tie a collar camera or whatever smart device they can come up with. Give a dog tag on every collar device too. I’m sure that’s the perfect Singapore that our government wanted for us. So safe so care about our daily activities.”

Ho Tong Fatt wrote, “I am hoping that they integrate all the traffic lights to make them smart to work in sync with each other to smoothen traffic flow and increase road capacity. Yet, they are trying to do what other people are doing in building autonomous vehicles, only to add more traffic. Lack of imagination. The founding government was able to think outside the box. Our current government only follow what others are doing.”

Feno Feno wrote, “Facial recognition. So basically making big brother watch you. This is the end of privacy and personal freedom people. And our government wants it for “national security”. Yeah right. They want to use it to make it easier to control the populace, take away what little freedoms you have. It is already happening in China. Now every government who wants to control dissent would want to do this. You people better hope these clowns get voted out of office or a one world government takes over.”

MW Ang wrote, “”Algorithms are everywhere, organizing the near limitless data that exists in our world. Derived from our every search, like, click, and purchase, algorithms determine the news we get, the ads we see, the information accessible to us and even who our friends are. These complex configurations not only form knowledge and social relationships in the digital and physical world, but also determine who we are and who we can be, both on and offline. Algorithms create and recreate us, using our data to assign and reassign our gender, race, sexuality, and citizenship status. They can recognize us as celebrities or mark us as terrorists. In this era of ubiquitous surveillance, contemporary data collection entails more than gathering information about us. Entities like Google, Facebook, and the NSA also decide what that information means, constructing our worlds and the identities we inhabit in the process. We have little control over who we algorithmically are. Our identities are made useful not for us—but for someone else.”

Jaswinder Kaul Gill wrote, “Is this really necessary? Funds could be used to help the disadvantaged in society instead.”

Kenny Khoo wrote, “Now is worst than Facebook and Google are monitoring you every second, every millimetre.”


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