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Data privacy is an essential aspect of our modern society, and it is especially important in the context of smart cities

A smart city is an urban area that uses technology to collect and analyse large amounts of data in order to improve the quality of life for its citizens. However, if data privacy is not properly protected, this data can be misused or exploited.

One of the main concerns when it comes to data privacy in smart cities is whether the data gathered is going to be used by the state for surveillance. With the increasing amount of data in our cities, there is a risk that this could be used to monitor the population. This is particularly concerning in the context of a city, where people’s movements and activities are already visible. In order to protect citizens from this type of surveillance, it is essential that these cities adopt data privacy measures that ensure that data is only used for legitimate purposes.

Smart advertising, not targeted advertising

Another concern with data privacy in smart cities is the risk that personal data could be used for targeted advertising. As smart cities collect more and more data about citizens, companies and organisations may be tempted to use this data to target advertising and other messages to specific individuals. This could lead to a situation where people are bombarded with unwanted messages and their personal information is used without their knowledge or consent. In light of this, smart cities should only use data for the purposes for which it was collected, rather than for targeted advertising.

A data privacy-focused approach is necessary. This means that it should work to the benefit of the people who live in the city and reject the surveillance state model where data is used to monitor individuals.

One way to achieve this is through the use of ‘privacy by design’ principles. This approach involves designing systems and processes that protect data privacy from the very beginning, rather than trying to add privacy measures after the fact. By using ‘privacy by design’, smart cities can ensure that data is only used for legitimate purposes and that individuals are not identified.

Data collection the right way

It is also important to understand the specific ways in which data can be collected and used. Data can be collected through a variety of means, such as sensors, cameras, and GPS devices. This data can then be analysed to provide insights into everything from traffic patterns to energy consumption, highlighting why essential data is used and collated with care.

Another key approach is to carry out most of the anonymisation process “at the edge” – i.e. at the roadside – so data is anonymised as close to the source as possible. This minimises the risk of individuals being identified within the data process and ensures that only anonymous data is provided to the city authority. Additionally, where the use case requires some form of re-identification of an individual (but not an identification) smart cities can use techniques such as pseudonymisation, where personal data is replaced with a pseudonym, and data minimisation, where only the minimum amount of data necessary is collected, to further protect data privacy.

In addition to these technical measures, smart cities can also implement organisational and policy measures to ensure data privacy. For example, they can establish clear data governance policies, including guidelines for data collection, use, and retention. They can also conduct regular data protection impact assessments to identify and mitigate potential risks to data privacy.

Privacy by design

With the increasing amount of data being collected and analysed, it is essential that smart cities take steps to protect data privacy, including using ‘privacy by design’ principles, carrying out anonymisation ‘at the edge’, and implementing organisational and policy measures. By taking these steps, smart cities can ensure that data is used for legitimate purposes and that individuals’ privacy is protected, which is how smart cities will thrive in the future.


Autor(en)/Author(s): Peter Mildon

Quelle/Source: Open Access Government, 09.02.2023

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