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Data Ethics & Security in Smart Cities

Smart cities are designed to meet the needs of citizens and make life more convenient and sustainable. And because of the many benefits a smart city brings to citizens, more city heads are using smart city planning to make transport, energy, and other civil sectors better suited to people who live in urban areas.

However, the benefits of building a smart city also come with risks, primarily data privacy and security. Left unsecured, data can be susceptible to attackers and abused in many different ways. So, how do smart city adopters deter these potential threats? Below, we discuss how to protect data in smart cities, and what city planners can do to maintain ethical use of city-data.

The challenge of ethics

Because smart cities are founded on data-gathering infrastructure, the data of citizens is a major piece of the puzzle. Understandably, privacy concerns will inevitably surface. What can smart cities do to implement the ethical use of city data?

  • Prioritise privacy – Any data collected should be anonymised to protect privacy. City governments should show the public that services are designed to provide complete privacy with public-facing sectors giving the public the choice to consent whenever their data is collected. This is a very similar basic idea to the GDPR launched in Europe in 2018.
  • Respect data ownership – Any sensitive data should only be accessed by those permitted by the municipality. Cities that partner with private and commercial sectors will need to share data fairly, ensuring it respects the privacy of the individual and data used to help promote the public good.
  • Talk about the benefits and risks – The people should be aware of the benefits and risks that come with data-driven services. Because giving up personal data comes to play, cities should implement security standards and regulations to protect citizens. The public should know what measures the city is taking to improve public safety, and what they can gain from data-driven infrastructure.

How to implement smart city technology safely

When implementing smart technologies, it’s vital to discuss what measures cities will take to guarantee data privacy. Here’s a few ideas:

  1. Perform quality assurance

Smart cities need to undergo strict inspection before any kind of city-wide implementation. This allows the city admins to filter out any security issues such as data leaks, malware, and more, before making the service available to the public.

  1. Run penetration tests

Penetration tests are a vital component of standard testing procedures. This allows municipalities to determine defects in smart technologies to minimise vulnerability to cyberattack.

  1. Draft SLAs for all service providers

City heads should draft service level agreements that list the security criteria that smart technology vendors and service providers need to meet. Criteria may include guaranteeing data privacy, and deployment of a 24/7 response team in case of security breaches.

  1. Encrypt and authenticate public channels

The government should regulate public communication channels, especially those that contain sensitive information. City administrations should use strong encryption for wired and wireless communications.

  1. Ensure continuity during system failure

The city should be able to provide their citizens access to basic services such as electricity and water, no matter what system happen to fail. A back-up plan is always important.

Balancing technology and security

As smart cities work become more complicated over time, many services will require a personal information. Vendors, service providers, and administrators should work together to implement technologies that put security first. As smart cities continue to fulfil the needs of citizens, it is also their duty to protect them.

Thoughtful smart living with Smart City

At Smart City, we provide products and services that aim to improve the public safety, energy efficiency, sustainability, and overall quality of life. We offer smart city devices, roadside technology, data visualisation, cloud services, and more. To learn more about our smart solutions, contact us today!