Sheikha Al-Sarrah, a student at the University of California-Berkeley, says the lights are a form of surveillance and surveillance is often illegal.
She is currently working with a company called Freightlight to test and evaluate their LED lights, which can help port officials identify when ships are headed to the United States.
The lights come in a variety of shapes and sizes and emit an LED light.
Al-sarrah says she wanted to see how many lights the lights can capture before she was completely satisfied with their efficiency.
Al Jazeera contacted Freight Light, but they declined to answer questions for this story.
They did, however, respond to a request for comment.
Aljazeera also contacted the Port of Oakland, which says its fleet of port-side lights will not capture images.
“We’ve tested all of the LED lights that we have at the port of Oakland and we have not seen any evidence that they are disrupting port operations,” Port of California spokesman Alex Gonzalez said.
“The Port of San Francisco and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey do not use any lights that can be detected in our ports, so we’re not aware of any incidents where lights have interfered with port operations.”
Al Jazeera’s Ben Edwards reports from New York City.