The collection, storage and exploitation of our personal data is a key 21st century issue that has yet fully to be addressed. It is a matter that transcends just cities and needs to be treated in national and international law.
GRDP provides a first framework in the European Economic Area, but where do I go to find out who hold data on me, what they are and how to edit them ???
Ultimately we must militate for a situation in which individuals actually become the owners of the data that concerns them and are able to market it or not. Cities should become actors in this campaign to protect and empower their citizens in this regard.
by Theo Sheppard – 16 June 2020
Welcome to the Smart City of the Future
A guided tour of the city that knows everything about you
From your choice of hot beverage to any underlying health conditions, the city of the future might know you better than your closest friends and family.
Upon entry, office buildings detect who you are, where you’re going and what you need using thousands of data-collecting sensors. Using this data, the building adapts to personal preference, optimising your office’s climate through finite adjustments in temperature, humidity and lighting.
On your way to work, school or university, you pass lamp posts riddled with sensors that collect data and monitor the world around them. These lamp posts then deliver updates on traffic and air quality, cutting down on journey times and ensuring the safety of commuters. Meanwhile, live high definition cameras alert emergency services to accidents and violations of the highway code.
At home, meals are made using food grown in hydroponic farms that substitute soil for water. Similarly to the city’s office buildings, these vertical farms make frequent adjustments to light, water and temperature, reducing the costs and time required to produce fresh food.
Small modifications to these conditions allow consumers to choose food with specific qualities to suit their taste preferences, making fresh fruit and vegetables desirable to a wider audience.
Despite an improved diet contributing to a healthier population, your phone and smart devices track signs of poor health, alerting doctors and emergency services where necessary. Personalised prescriptions and supplements can then be delivered rapidly using drone delivery.
Healthier people, better food, an optimal work environment, safer streets and faster commutes all contribute to a greater quality of life. In many ways, the smart city of the future sounds idyllic, but it is not without its flaws.
Invasion of Privacy
The primary issue with this vision of a smart city lies in the large scale collection of personal data. Under oppressive regimes or without strong data protection safeguards, smart cities risk the exploitation and/or restriction of personal liberty.
With smart technology in place, governments would be able to access data on almost everything, from where you live to who you know. In a few cities, CCTV and facial recognition software are already evoking privacy concerns.
China is home to eight of the top 10 most intensely surveilled cities, with each of these cities already using surveillance technology to control social behaviour and monitor suspected criminals. In 2018, London police made their first arrest guided by the findings of AI-assisted facial recognition software.
While the use of surveillance appears acceptable when applied to the arrest of harmful criminals, other potential uses are less palatable. With Chinese firms exporting state-of-the-art technology to at least two dozen other nations, the potential for data exploitation is very real.
Whether the smart city of the future resembles a convenient, utopian paradise or an oppressive, dystopian civilisation is yet to be determined. Either way, urban environments look likely to undergo considerable change in the coming decades as data collection technology helps to build a complete image of a city’s inhabitants.