Skip to navigationSkip to content
Close

Can smart cities help residents without hurting privacy? Smart cities' most valuable insights require access to personal information, but we haven't found a way to protect the individuals who generate that data.

Read more on Quartz

Featured contributions

  • This is a particularly informative angle on our urban futures because it breaks the smart city premise down to a simple yet perplexing paradox: Privacy violations are the biggest problem with smart cities, yes—but if you take away a system’s access to people’s personal data, you’re also eliminating the

    This is a particularly informative angle on our urban futures because it breaks the smart city premise down to a simple yet perplexing paradox: Privacy violations are the biggest problem with smart cities, yes—but if you take away a system’s access to people’s personal data, you’re also eliminating the very thing that a smart city requires to function.

    As the author, a data expert who consults on the future of smart cities, puts it: “The most valuable insights require access to personal information.” And accessing this data intrinsically violates personal privacy rights because we don’t have a way to shield our daily activities from censors or control our digital identities.

    The solution to this, anonymizing the data collected by a smart city’s censors, cameras, and recorders, defeats the very purpose of a smart city in the first place. Without full access to personal data, a smart city can’t serve its purpose: to create the intuitive, tailored, interactive and resident-serving environments that improve people’s quality of life, which proponents say they will yield.

    Which leads us readers to ask what the hell is up with smart cities, and who is actually winning here.

More contributions

  • As a technologist, I have very little trust in central systems such as government, any governments, capitalism, or socialism and opt for a decentralized democracy; however, as an entrepreneur where a startup is all about how to manage chaos and deliver executions. In that regard, no system works more

    As a technologist, I have very little trust in central systems such as government, any governments, capitalism, or socialism and opt for a decentralized democracy; however, as an entrepreneur where a startup is all about how to manage chaos and deliver executions. In that regard, no system works more efficiently than a centralized structure that has the power to distribute resources and push a result through. Take the Chinese government, for example.

    The basics of smart cities, data privacy, and beyond, at the core, are the same as any significant historical decisions that have shaped our society today. It is about achieving an objective - in this case, a better societal efficiency that benefits everyone, utilizing vital resources - data, and balancing the interests of all stakeholders - privacy protection. The significant decision we are making today is going to lay down the framework for the future course.

    No one deserves a granted trust and should be immune from a systemic power rebalancing — every DNA, individual, organization, or a government exist first for its own interest. The government is not here to protect its citizens unless it reinforces its position to stay ruling. There will be, if not now, an insurmountable conflict of interest one day.

    We might not have realized that, but big data is the key element to make the next generation's atomic bomb possible, biotechnology, for example, to re-program in creating superweapons. The weaponization of AI is that most Defense departments around the world have been exploring.

    Believing governments or large companies have our best interests in their hearts is both delusional and unstainable.

    Today we don't lack the objective (smarter cities) or means and resources (technology and data) to achieve it. Still, until now, we miss out on a structure and a clear-defined boundary to balance the power against the vulnerable group, which is the individuals. The legislation on data privacy is the last century, the ownership of private data is a stalling debate among large companies, and the manipulation of data creates a trillion-dollar business.

    Now the government is stepping in to the game to replace Google, Facebook, and Tencent. The consequence and the price will be far greater than what Facebook has done to privacy abuse, because this time, the abuser is far more powerful and appears far more trustworthy.

    The smart city approach reveals the only tip of the iceberg.