BY Capgemini
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IT trends spotted and checked by experts


What happens

Controversy was sparked in Adelaide, Australia, concerning a smart city pilot project. While its inhabitants praise some if the advantages that digital technology has brought them (optimised road traffic, secure housing for elderly people, etc.), supporters of individual liberties are worried about the exploitation of personal data.

so what?

Professor of public law at Science Po

A specialist in public law as well as a doctor in law, Jean-Bernard Auby has run Science Po's chair on "Changes in Public Service and Public Law" since 2006. Honorary president of the French Association...

Tomorrow's ultra-connected smart cities will be driven by data, which includes each individual's own personal data. How can the development of innovative services be ensured without this threatening our individual liberties? Inventive laws will need to be devised...

What are the risks to people's private lives in a smart city?

Smart cities function using phenomenal amounts of data - some might say it's their lifeblood. Digital technology allows for interconnection between elements of the urban infrastructure, and for the creation of new public and private services. Certain types of data are not nominative, such as subway train timetables, but other types of data potentially are. GPS mapping or mobility support tools could give indications as to the everyday habits of citizens and the places they frequent.

Operators claim that they make this data anonymous, but is that always the case? Technical experts believe that this is wishful thinking...

By cross-referencing data, we end up finding out people's identities - it needs to be understood that the very concept of a smart city links up inevitably with objective and personal data. The new city of Songdo, in South Korea, gives us an idea of what the future might hold in store for us. With the same user name, an inhabitant can pay their road toll, buy their groceries in a supermarket, regulate the temperature inside their apartment form a distance... the list is long. Everything is interconnected. 

If we project ourselves even further into the future, the driverless vehicle will inevitably be connected to a city's traffic regulation system in order to know the real time state of traffic and the location of road works. In turn, the vehicle will reveal information such as the identity of its passengers and their journeys. Insurance companies may well request that such data be saved in the event of an accident. 

Where does the law stand on this?

In France, the Law For A Digital Republic, which was devised by the secretary of state Axelle Lemaire and recently adopted by parliament, offers some interesting, forward-thinking ideas, even though it does not cover all aspects of the topic. Furthermore, protective rules have an increasingly European dimension, and the European Regulation on the Protection of Personal Data is the latest addition (the European regulation will not be transposed into French Law until 2018, Editor's note).

To date, in France, the founding text in this domain remains the "informatique et libertés" Data Protection Act, which recalls the principles of purpose and proportionality. Any processing of personal data must be appropriate to the objective that is to be achieved and must (barring exceptions) be the object of a preliminary request for authorisation made to the Cnil (the National Commission for Information Technology and Individual Liberties). The processing of sensitive data, such as that pertaining to race or religious or political affiliation, is, of course, forbidden.

What is the stance of public and private operators?

 Professionals from the world of digital technology believe the legislative framework to be too unwieldy and restrictive, and are therefore asking for more flexibility. The argument that they put forward is well known: Smart cities present a formidable opportunity for development, why hinder their progress? Private operators often receive the full and unwavering support of a number of consumers: the pros offered by the services they receive justify the cons that come with the erosion of their individual liberties. 

Local authorities have shown themselves to be more scrupulous when it comes to protecting people's private lives. Through creating social data, they already know what the protection of sensitive data is all about. These administrative bodies are more focused on the idea of open data: supplying the general public with anonymous data linked to urbanism or the climate while ensuring that this data is not exploited for dishonest purposes. 

Who cares?

  - In smart cities, the gathering and processing of data is carried out by two identifiable stakeholders: Local authorities and the public administration sector, via public transport and road use, waste collection, emergency services and hospitals etc., and private operators such as telecom companies, energy suppliers and housing developers. 

  • - The wide array of stakeholders and the interconnectivity between services makes it complicated to identify the chain of responsibilities when it comes to handling data. Indeed, it is difficult to develop a coordinated data privacy policy which clearly shows that data must be used for the good of citizens and for improving their everyday lives, not in the pursuit of controlling their private lives.   
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