Building Privacy-Preserving Smart Cities: Myth or Reality?

Building Privacy-Preserving Smart Cities: Myth or Reality?

From traffic congestion reduction to utility consumption improvement, care services optimization, new environmental and circular economy perspective, smart cities promise to enhance our lives in almost any aspects. Who hasn’t dreamt of such a utopia?

For every improvement in the city, though, there are significant risks for privacy that if neglected could lead to very damaging results for us all, if not the ultimate rise of surveillance capitalism, turning utopian intentions into dystopian catastrophe. In this context, solving the underlying privacy issue has become a must-have priority for anyone involved in smart city developments.

Myth: Thinking that digital innovation can only be achieved at the expense of privacy. 

Should we really make a choice between boosting smart-city initiatives vs privacy?

This has been the question in numerous discussions around smart cities concepts and projects.

It is indisputable that access to vast amounts of personal data is needed to make our cities smarter and enable digital enhancements. Yet in light of recent events that casted a harsh light on the notion of personal data collection and privacy respect, it would seem that the only way to ensure no harmful, unauthorized use of the data is to not share data at all.

So what trade-off should we make?

  • should we enable city improvements at the cost of privacy? 
  • Or should we protect privacy at the cost of general welfare and accountability? 

The common mistake here consists of thinking that digital innovation can only be achieved at the expense of privacy. 

There is this unwavering myth that privacy is the price to pay for better, personalized services, security or mobility in the city. Protecting data and privacy rights, however, should not be up for a trade-off in any future smart city.

So what if there was a better option? The release of Open shows that there is a way to encourage personal data collection being done right.

Reality: “Privacy doesn’t have to be only secrecy. We envision a world where privacy is the ability to share your data with awareness and control.” – Evelina Georgieva @ Pryv SA

Ultimately, locking all access to the data is not a sustainable solution if we are aiming for a brighter, technology-enhanced future. Benefiting from data-fueled solutions would not only help improve the city at many levels, but also provide us with new opportunities for self-development, bringing awareness to our patterns and unsustainable behaviors.

Finding “luxury in self-reproach”.

At some degree, smart cities could promote accountability and we might even find that there is some “luxury in self-reproach”.

Imagine a world where users would be able to step up and face the reality of their behaviours and impact on the planet, and where providers would offer the users real control over their data, including the ability to verify that it is used rightly, as well as real choice and transparency as to who and what services can access their data at a granular level.

It’s up to us to make this world the reflection of our reality.

So where to start to make it happen?

The real deal: Consensual Privacy-Preserving Data Collection and Management

Relying on privacy-preserving technologies might just be the perfect option to start your project on solid rock foundations. There have already been a number of existing solutions that will greatly help you not only save time and resources, but develop smart cities applications rightly.

We do have something for you as well: a ready-to-use, privacy-focused back-end solution to enable embedding such technologies to your project while addressing all personal data lifecycle management aspects, including consent management, interoperability and scalability. middleware is a development tool for developers which is solving challenges in personal and Real-World data collection, structuring, aggregation, processing, sharing and storage (from any data source: biometric, IoT, sensors, geolocation, weather forecasts, etc.) for different applications:

  • Urban development, mobility, driver’s behaviour, traffic management
(GPS location & acceleration of vehicles)
  • Smart utility consumption: sustainable energy and water household use and saving
(metrics from electrical and water counters and sustainable resources usage)
  • Smart Housing
  • Smart hospital and healthcare services
  • Citizen behaviour analysis
 (phone location and aggregation of data from public transportations, shopping behaviour)

Based on a privacy-by-design, user-centric approach, Pryv’s technology allows development teams to build and manage smart digital data infrastructures and applications, delivering data transparency and auditability, multi-level data sharing and processing, within the respected data protection layers which apply within each and over multiple cross-industry and specific user/citizen groups requirements.

Among Pryv’s features:

Are you working on a smart city project?

Processing personal data?

Analyzing consumers behaviors?

10 facts developers should know when developing personal data collecting apps

Check out our code available in Open Source and book a meeting to know how Pryv can help you shape the cities of the future in full respect of privacy and cross-industry regulations.


Stephanie & Evelina