Smart Cities: A Nightmare in the making

BiffConsulting and Education, Cypherpunk Leave a Comment

In the pursuit of a more efficient, sustainable, and connected urban future, the concept of “smart cities or 15 minute cities” has gained traction worldwide.

What is a Smart City?

A smart city is a city that uses technology to make itself a better place to live, work, and visit. In our opinion a true smart city should be based on using data and innovation to create a more livable, sustainable, and efficient urban environment for all.

While these ambitious projects hold the potential to transform the way we live, work, and interact with our surroundings, they also raise a multitude of concerns, particularly regarding privacy, surveillance, and the erosion of democratic processes.

At the heart of smart cities lies an intricate network of sensors, cameras, and data collection systems, often deployed without the informed consent or knowledge of the public.

  • These technologies, intended to optimize urban functions from traffic management to energy efficiency, also collect vast amounts of personal data about citizens, including their movements, habits, and even their political affiliations.
  • Data, a highly valuable commodity, has become a target for private companies and government agencies, who can utilize it for targeted advertising, political manipulation, and even profiling individuals for potential surveillance or law enforcement action.
  • Lack of transparency and public involvement in smart city projects is particularly alarming. In many cases, citizens are kept in the dark about the specific technologies being deployed, the data being collected, or how it will be used. This lack of transparency breeds mistrust and suspicion, undermining the very principles of open governance that smart cities are supposed to embody.

The majority of funding for smart city initiatives comes from taxpayer dollars, often without their explicit approval.

In the United States, for instance, US Ignite, a “non-profit organization” promoting smart city development, receives a significant portion of its funding from the federal government (90% directly from the National Science Foundation).

Implications are far-reaching. Taxpayers, who are ultimately footing the bill for these projects, have no say in how their data is collected, used, or shared. This raises concerns about the potential for misuse of taxpayer funds and the erosion of individual privacy rights.

Moreover, the reliance on taxpayer funding raises questions about the motivations behind the development of smart cities…

Are these projects truly driven by a desire to improve the lives of citizens or are they more concerned with enhancing government control and profiteering from the vast troves of personal data generated?

The trajectory of smart cities is a delicate balance between innovation and the protection of fundamental rights and freedoms.

Without robust safeguards for privacy, transparency, and public participation, these ambitious projects risk transforming into surveillance nightmares that erode our liberties and undermine our democratic values.

To ensure that smart cities fulfill their promise of improving urban life without compromising our privacy and autonomy, a paradigm shift is required. Governments, technology companies, and citizens must work together to ensure that these technologies are developed and deployed with transparency, accountability, and respect for individual privacy.

Public engagement and informed consent must be at the heart of the smart city movement, ensuring that these transformative technologies serve the interests of the public, not the interests of surveillance and profiteering.

The future of smart cities is not preordained. It is up to us to shape this emerging urban landscape in a way that respects our rights, enhances our lives, and fosters a more democratic and equitable society.


* Goldmann Staxx

* Privacy International:

* Electronic Frontier Foundation:

* American Civil Liberties Union:

* Electronic Privacy Information Center:

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