Cutting-edge SMART technology needs next-generation privacy design

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With the growing realization that data – especially personal data – is the new currency for business, it’s not surprising that the issue of protecting it and people’s privacy has come to the forefront of discussions about implementing SMART Cities solutions.

At an executive committee meeting of Toronto City Council in June, data security dominated the discussion of how a 12-acre housing development project known as Quayside, being proposed by Google sister company Sidewalk Labs that incorporates SMART technology would use the billions of data points collected from personal devices such as smartphones and the multitude of sensors that are at the heart of the Internet of Things.

The issue has delayed approval of the project until 2020 at the earliest, pending various studies on how data will be stored and managed. Under consideration are solutions such as a third-party data trust tasked with keeping data secure, consent and opt-out provisions for people who want to protect the personal data collected and stricter guidelines on commercial use of data.

And yet, more than half of Toronto residents are in favour of the Sidewalk Labs project, according to polling by the Toronto Real Estate Board. At the same time, a significant portion of the community has voiced concern that current best practices for data privacy are out of date and inadequate for a project of this size and scope. Toronto is planning a series of public consultations and has commissioned more study to try and allay concerns. The goal is to come up with a new digital infrastructure policy framework and governance model that, combined with provincial and federal policy frameworks, will give city councillors a better idea of how to evaluate the Quayside project proposal.

The Schulich Executive Education Centre program SMART Cities Leadership (starting Oct. 7, 2019) includes a session on this critical topic, including a discussion about the notions of Privacy by Design that will underpin projects. The session will outline cutting-edge practices and conventions to keep municipalities safe and help resolve the conflict between corporate security and systemic efficiency.

For more information on SMART Cities Leadership, visit the program website.

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