CITY HALL — Maverick members of the City Council are calling for hearings on plans to collect data randomly from passersby on the Magnificent Mile.
The Tribune reported in Sunday that the city is installing boxes along Michigan Avenue that will register air quality, temperature, wind and rain, but also "count people by measuring wireless signals on mobile devices," like cellphones.
Ald. Bob Fioretti (2nd) on Monday said the potential for abuse in such a system was high and announced he would be submitting a resolution at Wednesday's City Council meeting seeking to halt the installation of the boxes until hearings can be held on the issue.
"What legal adviser for the city signed off on this?" Fioretti asked.
"A couple questions I have is who's gonna pay for the installation?" Fioretti added. "The upkeep, updating the hardware, software. Under what terms is this data going to be utilized? Who's gonna have access to it?"
Yet the larger issue, he said, is the right to privacy even when out walking city streets. After starting on Michigan Avenue, the data collection, sometimes called the "Array of Things" project, is expected to expand through the Loop and into the neighborhoods by the end of the year.
"Exactly what kind of data will be collected here?" Fioretti said. "And what kind of protections are gonna be put in place to protect the public?
"This kind of data collection is a multi-million-dollar value," he added. "And we're giving it away? To who? What?"
According to Berman, the sensors will only count devices using Wi-Fi or Bluetooth.
"We are not capturing anything that is personally identifying about the device," she said. "We're not tracking or storing any identifying information at all."
Berman compared it to a count of people visiting a library, typically used to earn additional government funding.
The resolution, which Fioretti said is also being circulated by Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd) in search of council support, states: "This venture is fraught with glaringly obvious invasion-of-privacy issues." It calls for hearings on the matter before the Committee on Economic, Capital and Technology Development. Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) is chairman of that committee.
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