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    Guardian (UK): Smart cities: are you willing to trade privacy for efficiency?

    The Guardian reports onquestions of privacy concerning “smart” cities — where data is increasingly collected on the habits of citizens and residents:

    Privacy must play an instrumental role in any smart city strategy otherwise citizens might fear the introduction of other innovative technology, according to an executive at one of the world’s largest infrastructure companies.

    Wim Elfrink, executive vice president of industry solutions and chief globalisation officer of Cisco, heads up the company’s smart cities team and warned that if cities did not give citizens the choice of whether or not to allow the government to use their data, they might opt-out of future initiatives. […]

    A number of councils have already installed a number of sensors around London with the aim of creating a smarter city. This is done through collecting large amounts of data – from information about available parking spaces, electricity usage and even refuse levels – before then analysing it and understanding problems they may not know existed.

    Data from sensors in parking spaces in the City of Westminster, for example, showed the council that commuters typically went to a specific set of roads to find their parking and enacted policies to encourage them to find spaces in nearby streets.

    Elfrink’s warning also comes the year after two companies received major backlash when citizens learned their movements were being tracked.

    A number of customers of American retail store Nordstrom, for example, were incensed when they found out that sensors within the shop were monitoring their behaviour around the store.

    Closer to home, marketing company Renew was forced to shut down a programme that tracked individuals movements if they walked through Cheapside (near St. Paul’s Cathedral) through sensors embedded into a number of recycling bins. The company’s chief executive argued that citizens could opt-out of being monitored but many questioned the premise of opting out of something you didn’t know was taking place.

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