Data subjects in the European Urban Agenda

17 04 2015

Last week I had the pleasure of speaking in the lovely city of Delft, at a public meeting about the European Public Agenda for the future. The mayor of Delft is ‘rapporteur’ for the European Commission and collecting suggestions, ideas and knowledge to inform this agenda. I took the opportunity to speak about urban Big, Open and Linked Data, and smart cities. The latter is, of course, a buzz word of immense proportions with smart and data driven solutions promising to end all urban problems, from pollution to parking space, from social cohesion to creative hotspots, and so on. We tend to forget that such smart solutions depend crucially on the consent and collaboration of inhabitants and visitors of the city, who don’t want to feel under continuous scrutiny and surveillance of public and private organisations. While there is enough attention for privacy, and while there are well designed systems that keep to the requirements of privacy laws, there is little understanding of the uncomfortable feelings that people may experience with too smart applications. The aversion to the infamous snooping garbage bins in London is one obvious example. For feelings of well being in the city, it is crucial to also understand the experience and feelings of ‘data-subjects’, if that is a term people want to apply to themselves……

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