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Smart city initiatives require special consideration of privacy risks

Smart city initiatives require special consideration of privacy risks

Leaders are urged to consider possible privacy risks and how they may be curtailed in the implementation of smart city initiatives.


Leaders worldwide are being urged to give keen consideration to the possible privacy risks associated with smart city initiatives. The European Commission has defined smart cities as “a place where traditional networks and services are made more efficient with the use of digital solutions for the benefit of its inhabitants and business.” Initiatives like the Smart Cities Marketplace in the EU, created by merging two former platforms, the “Marketplace of the European Innovation Partnership on Smart Cities and Communities (EIP-SCC Marketplace)” and the “Smart Cities Information System (SCIS)” have been supported by several leaders across Europe. 


As municipal leaders worldwide make important strides in the development and implementation of smart city initiatives, tech organisations are calling for special consideration of privacy risks.


As municipal leaders gather to discuss various smart city initiatives worldwide, including a Barcelona expo in November, and an expo currently underway in Taipei, Taiwan, it remains important that the effects of smart city initiatives on privacy and personal data security be considered in the design and implementation of these initiatives. The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) published a report earlier this month, in which the organisation urged municipal leaders to consider how they can capitalise on the benefits to the public, while sustaining an adequate level of privacy. Most smart cities are, as described by the ITIF, built around the Internet of Things (IoT) with key capabilities, combined with the collection and analysis of large quantities of data. This is what enables the technology in these cities to automate processes, improve service quality, and make better decisions, thereby rendering the city“smart”. 


Municipal authorities are implored to seriously consider and address the privacy concerns associated with smart city initiatives.


The main privacy concerns associated with smart cities are data security, commercial data use, and government surveillance.  There is concern that governments may use smart cities to surveil individuals, and that data may be collected not just by governments, but also for commercial uses. In addition there is always the fear of the risk of data breaches. While smart cities may be particularly vulnerable to cyber attacks due to their use of IoT devices, much of the data collected by smart cities typically pose a low risk to privacy on its own. These are all genuine concerns for individuals who may stand to benefit from smart city initiatives. Concerns about data breaches are valid as they often result in personal data of individuals ending up in the wrong hands including hacking groups and other criminals. For this reason, privacy risks require and deserve special consideration in the development of smart city initiatives. Municipal authorities are being called to prioritise cybersecurity by setting high security requirements, regulating data collection by law enforcement, and anonymising any personal data collected. 

Does your company have all of the mandated safeguards in place to ensure the safety of the personal data you collect or process? Aphaia can help. Aphaia also provides both Data Protection Officer outsourcing, and GDPR and Data Protection Act 2018 consultancy services, as well as Telecom Regulatory Consultancy. We can help your company get on track towards full compliance. Contact us today.

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