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A drawing of one of Array of Things' smart sensors.

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CHAMPAIGN — Citing continued privacy concerns, the Champaign City Council unanimously voted down an agreement with the University of Illinois to install “smart sensors” around the city.

Council members said they had many of the same questions they had a year ago, when the agreement was first brought before the council and tabled.

“There are just too many unanswered questions,” Councilman Matt Gladney said. “At this point, there should be more information.”

“I do think that we want to be an innovative city. We want to partner with the university on their research,” Mayor Deb Feinen said. But “we’re kind of rereading the same information.”

The sensors would measure atmospheric conditions such as temperature and ozone levels, as well as images and audio to calculate traffic counts and “ambient sound intensity,” according to a staff memo prepared by I.T. Director Mark Toalson.

While city spokesman Jeff Hamilton said the video and audio would be processed on the devices then deleted, some council members were concerned about how long it would take to be deleted and worried about opening the door for privacy or civil liberty violations down the road. They also questioned whether the video could be subpoenaed or used to give ratings to certain parts of the city.

“I’m not ready to accuse anybody of having bad motives now,” Councilman Tom Bruno said. “But I also don’t want my fingerprints on government action that makes it easier for people of future years or future generations to violate the civil liberties of Americans.”

They also questioned whether the video could be subpoenaed or used to give ratings to certain parts of the city.

“There’s nothing here that guarantees or that reassures me that this information can’t be abused or misused in some way that neglects or harms our citizens,” Councilman Michael Foellmer said.

Reporter

Ben Zigterman is a reporter covering business at The News-Gazette. His email is bzigterman@news-gazette.com, and you can follow him on Twitter (@bzigterman).

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