The smart city risk
Cities are becoming key focal points in the personal data economy. In municipal governments there’s demand for data-informed approaches to the likes of waste management, public transport and emergency response, while in the private sector the city represents an essential source of data for sharing economy platforms such as Uber and Airbnb, according to the Reclaiming the Smart City report from Nesta.
However, while data-driven services have the potential to deliver huge efficiencies – from merging and matching data from different sources to predict illness, to providing insights into products or recommendations – this could come at the cost of our privacy, the report warns.
It’s curious, the report states, that privacy has tended to be a low-ranking concern for companies and governments working on smart city programmes.
“While privacy campaigners have been warning of the risks these programmes present for years, it is only recently that this has begun to register as a mainstream concern. In some instances, conversations are recorded, a person’s movements are tracked in granular detail, and facial recognition is used with static and mobile cameras.”
Nesta states that city governments have been slow to realise that such technologies are able to create new imbalances of power in our societies. It adds that upblic-private partnerships have been at the heart of smart cities, yet these deals, including the issue of who controls the data, are rarely subject to any public oversight or scrutiny.