Smart Cities

Cities full of sensors that monitor peoples' activities, generating intelligence for use by companies and governments.

Do you live in a “smart city”? Chances are, if you live in a city – even if you are not aware of it – you probably do. Beyond the marketing term – that companies have been using to sell the idea of a city that becomes more efficient, more sustainable and more secure by using technology – what smart cities are really about is the collection of data in the public space by government and the private sector to provide services.

What Is The Problem

While smart cities sound good on paper, in practice we are watching our cities turning into increasingly surveilled space, where there is no longer such a thing as strolling anonymously down the streets. The loss of our privacy in public spaces has real consequences for democracies and deny us room for dissent and protest.

Moreover, the smart cities we have observed have so far been reflecting already existing inequalities: built for the wealthier and for those with access to technology; they have failed to include disfranchised populations, the less-abled and to address the issue of gender inequality in cities.

Privacy International is gathering existing case studies of smart cities, as well as producing original research on smart cities to document their reality beyond the marketing discourses.

What Is The Solution

Privacy International believes citizen consultation needs to be at the heart of city planning. While deals between companies and cities have too often been signed behind closed doors, it is important to bring citizens who truly reflect the diversity of society at the discussion table to insure we create cities that are smart for everyone and that take into account people’s priorities.

Collection of data does not systematically improve cities. It is time for city planners to think of ways to improve our cities that do not impact our right to privacy. When data collection is deemed mandatory, only the data that is strictly necessary should be collected. Data should not be sold for advertisement purposes, nor should it be given to companies as part of government and private sector partnership.

Citizens should be made aware of the data that is collected about them and how it will be used. They should be entitled to have it corrected and deleted.

Surrendering one’s data should never be the condition to have access to services.

What PI Is Doing

Privacy International is gathering existing case studies of smart cities, as well as producing original research on smart cities to document their reality beyond the marketing discourses.