“It Is A Sweeping Effort That Will Likely Touch The Lives Of Every Single Resident In The Country”


Singapore may not be Disneyland with the death penalty as William’s 1993 Wired article was famously titled, but how about a theme park as a surveillance state?

I’ve posted before about the city-state’s government investing in copious cameras and sensors in an effort to become the world’s first “smart nation.” Everything will be measured, everything monitored. It seems a deeper and wider realization of Stafford Beer’s efforts in the 1970s to centralize all of Chile’s businesses with Project Cybersyn. Difference is, Singapore’s system is about much more than money.

In a Wall Street Journal article, Jane Maxwell Watts and Newley Purnell report that “any decision to use data collected by Smart Nation sensors for law enforcement or surveillance would not, under Singapore law, need court approval or citizen consultation.” The opening:

SINGAPORE—This wealthy financial center is known world-wide for its tidy streets and tight controls on personal behavior, including famous restrictions on the sale of chewing gum to keep the city clean.

Now Singapore may soon be known for something else: the most extensive effort to collect data on daily living ever attempted in a city.

As part of its Smart Nation program, launched by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in late 2014, Singapore is deploying an undetermined number of sensors and cameras across the island city-state that will allow the government to monitor everything from the cleanliness of public spaces to the density of crowds and the precise movement of every locally registered vehicle.

It is a sweeping effort that will likely touch the lives of every single resident in the country, in ways that aren’t completely clear since many potential applications may not be known until the system is fully implemented.•

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