SAN JOSE (KPIX 5) — South Bay residents were raising privacy concerns Tuesday due to a proposal to outfit some new high-tech street lights with surveillance cameras.

It turns out some of the hottest real estate in the South Bay is right overhead. San Jose has become a fertile testing ground as tech companies chomp at the bit to install devices on top of the humble streetlight.

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“Nobody ever thought street lights could be this interesting,” said San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo. “It’s fair to say there’s a lot of dollars involved, and then suddenly it gets interesting.”

This all began about four years ago, as the city began to convert its 64,000 yellow sodium-vapor streetlights to more energy efficient white LEDs.

The city only converted about a third of them before running out of funding.

“You think they’d be done by now. Well, we’re about $36 million dollars short,” said Liccardo

Now the city is trying to get the private sector to pay for the rest of the conversion, focusing particularly on deals with wireless companies.

The poles are especially enticing because devices like cell-phone microsites can be installed to create a robust data network across the entire city.

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“So we see this as an opportunity to leverage their desire for this access to publicly owned real estate, and we can then transform our streetscape with better lighting that will improve our environment,” said Liccardo.

Another thing that will likely get installed with the new lights is surveillance cameras.

Some street lights already have traffic cameras on them now, but there’s been talk of a pilot project to install 1,000 surveillance cameras.

It’s early in the process, but councilmember Johnny Khamis is pushing for a comprehensive privacy policy that governs where the cameras are pointed, how long the data is stored, and so on.

“I just want to make sure that we’re not using people’s data and we’re not using people’s movements and things in ways that they don’t want them to be used,” explained Khamis. “A lot of data that’s being collected is currently being used for economic reasons that have nothing to do with us.”

Linda Ferguson is a downtown San Jose resident. She told KPIX 5 that surveillance cameras would help fight crime, but privacy remains her biggest concern.

“What would be the benefit?,” asked Ferguson. “Where is it being done where it’s beneficial and what is the true benefit there. And is there a privacy problem, because that is my concern.”

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Mayor Liccardo agrees that it would make sense to have some sort of privacy policy in place, but he said for now he will focus on determining who will win the contract to install the new streetlights.