Privacy Group Says Smart City Data Collection Needs Oversight

The Future of Privacy Forum said institutions must be established to govern the handling of individuals’ data in the era of smart cities.

The rise of smart cities has created environments full of sensors and cameras that help to make cities run smoothly, however in the process, these devices pick up data on individuals who use city services.

The Future of Privacy Forum created an infographic earlier this month that shows all connected devices in the realms of transportation, utilities, telecommunications, government services, and environmental protection. Some of these devices include tolls, smart buses, street light sensors, public broadband, police body cameras, and smart trash cans.

The privacy group said that the multitude of connected devices causes concerns such as surveillance, data spills, unexpected uses of data, open data portals, algorithms that discriminate against disenfranchised communities, and inaccurate data.

In order to prevent these concerns from happening, the privacy group said an organization should oversee the handling of data to ensure that accountability is maintained. Also, organizations can engage city residents to ensure they know how their data is being used and offer choices to residents about when they want to participate in data collection.

The privacy group also said organizations should only store raw data on local devices and store aggregated and de-identified data on the cloud to ensure that the most sensitive data is secure. To go even further, organizations should consider collecting the minimum amount of data needed to achieve their goal.

When the government or companies select data management companies to work with they should be properly vetted for their security and privacy practices, and entered into contractual agreements to protect personal information.

The infographic and privacy suggestions from the group follow the signing of a bill by President Donald Trump, which allows Internet service providers to sell customers’ personal data. The bill, which was passed along party lines by Congress, sought to overturn previous privacy protections from the Federal Communications Commission. The ruling was made in order to minimize undue pressure on Internet providers specifically over other online companies.

“American consumers’ privacy deserves to be protected regardless of who handles their personal information,” said FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, in a statement. “In order to deliver that consistent and comprehensive protection, the Federal Communications Commission will be working with the Federal Trade Commission to restore the [Federal Trade Commission’s] authority to police Internet service providers’ privacy practices.  We need to put America’s most experienced and expert privacy cop back on the beat.”

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