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The use of surveillance cameras in urban environments has been widening. Smart city applications for traffic management, pedestrian counting etc. have become more prevalent in various countries around the globe. China has been reputed as a leading player in this field. Now, US authorities have been apparently hiding surveillance cameras in streetlights? The US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) have hidden an undisclosed number of covert surveillance cameras inside streetlights around the country, federal contracting documents reveal.

Government procurement data reveal that these authorities have paid companies for “video recording and reproducing equipment.” It’s unclear where the DEA and ICE streetlight cameras have been installed, or where the next deployments will take place.

Christie Crawford, who owns one of the companies that supply these services, Cowboy Streetlight Concealments, told qz.com: “We do streetlight concealments and camera enclosures. Basically, there’s businesses out there that will build concealments for the government and that’s what we do. They specify what’s best for them, and we make it.”

In addition to streetlights, the DEA has also placed covert surveillance cameras inside traffic barrels, a purpose-built product offered by a number of manufacturers. The DEA operates a network of digital speed-display road signs that contain automated license plate reader technology within them.

Chad Marlow, a senior advocacy and policy counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union, says efforts to put cameras in street lights have been proposed before by local law enforcement, typically as part of a “smart” LED street light system. “It basically has the ability to turn every streetlight into a surveillance device, which is very Orwellian, to say the least,” Marlow told Quartz.