When game designer Will Wright invented SimCity, little did he know that 25 years later his idea would become close to reality. Nowadays Smart City projects, promising to create the perfect urban space, are mushrooming globally.
Smart Cities aim at creating a better, greener and more secure environment by gathering data on inhabitants to deliver an optimal quality of service. Electricity will be saved when streets are empty, public transport will become more functional and the services a city has to offer will be tailored for you.
The key to smart cities is the gigantic amount of data, mainly produced by our devices and mostly without our involvement. It flows freely across sectors and projects the city's and its citizen's patterns.
Companies like IBM, Microsoft and Oracle, which offer smart city packages to governments, process this data. For instance, with the 2016 Olympics coming up, Rio de Janeiro has purchased an emergency response system from IBM that centralizes data by various agencies to predict crimes and natural disasters.
But these developments come with a price: deals between the public sector and large providers could limit the potential for innovation; in particular, when data that could be made publicly available will only be shared with a few. Governments - not citizens - will have control over the data.
Importantly, smart cities will have tremendous implications on our right to privacy: the data we produce can give detailed insights into the lives of individuals. Without proper legal frameworks, a growing number of public and private can generate intelligence on us. This becomes specifically problematic with the increasing risk of re-identification of individuals in data sets.
In our talk we will share examples of current or proposed smart city concepts that are or could threaten fundamental pillars of open and democratic societies. And we would like to discuss technical and legal steps that are needed to protect our rights.