Chris Gilliard: The two faces of the smart city

21/01/2020 - 09:34

"My neighbors—on each side of my house and across the street—all use Amazon’s Ring doorbell. This sometimes raises opportunities to measure my commitment to privacy. For several nights in a row this past summer, some kids (I assume) were egging cars on our block. Eventually it was my “turn,” and I woke up to my neighbor knocking on my door to inform me that my car had been egged. He said he had footage from the incident captured by his Ring, and that, if I wanted, he could send it to the police. I thanked him, but politely declined the offer. I live in Dearborn, Michigan, which has the largest population of Muslims in the United States, and I am certainly not going to involve the police when there’s a strong possibility that it might endanger a Muslim kid over a problem that can be solved with white vinegar. Surveillance often encourages “solutions” that far outstrip the level of the infraction. Without a camera, it’s unlikely that someone would bother to call the police for a car egging, but the existence of footage—the fact that people have potentially actionable evidence they feel compelled to use—turns a minor instance of vandalism into a situation involving law enforcement.

Ring purports to take on the function of a community of people looking out for one another. It bills itself as a “new neighborhood watch,” without considering the connotation of that phrase in a world where Trayvon Martin was killed by a racist acting as a “neighborhood watch.”....

This article was originally published on Urban Omnibus as part of the special series Digital Frictions.

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