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Because I needed another reason to be skeptical of flying....

The newly installed LED lights in Terminal B of Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey don’t just provide clean, bright light for people waiting to catch their flights. They’re part of another installment in the “things that watch us without our knowledge” saga that has become the norm in today’s world. And they won’t be contained in Terminal B forever.

The project is still in the beginning stages, but officials of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (which operates Newark Airport) are already talking about expanding to other terminals and buildings in the airport.

The lights started out as an attempt to bring more “green” technology into the airport. They sense activity and adjust brightness accordingly, much like some lights in public bathrooms that turn on upon your entrance, making you feel like royalty (or is that just me?). There’s also sensors installed in them that are part of a wireless network of cameras that can track suspicious activity and feed that data back to a central hub.

Needless to say, privacy advocates are up in arms about this new system. Personally, nothing surprises me after I found out the NSA was using Angry Birds to collect data on citizens. I had to find a new time-waster game after that hit the news. This just seems like yet another chapter in the Big Brother saga.

Fred H. Cate, director of the Center for Applied Cybersecurity Research at Indiana University, describes the potential for misuse of the data collected as “terrifying.” We are assured that the Port Authority will maintain all the data, only able to give it up to a law enforcement or other government agency with the presentation of a subpoena or another written request. But how long will that last?

Now, I am not naïve. I don’t believe that this surveillance is by any means “new,” just because the Edward Snowden scandal rocked the headlines relatively recently. What startles me is the influx of it and how some agencies seem to think that informing citizens of their surveillance somehow makes it ethical and acceptable.

I just want to know one thing: Are we really safer with all this spying technology, or is it just another way for the government to unjustly monitor its citizens?

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