With so many critical services enmeshed with smart cities, the attack surface is enormous and extremely vulnerable. The more technology is involved, the greater the vulnerability to infrastructure and city services. The time to act on securing our smart cities is now. The more that systems with vulnerabilities are incorporated, the greater is the risk to which city dwellers are exposed – and the more that we will have to catch-up in the future.
The inherent threat in the evolution of our living places – As we generate more data, and as we combine and analyze these data, privacy concerns increase. These data can provide valuable insights to help us manage the complex nature of our growing population and urbanization needs. We should not, and cannot, allow this pressing need for efficiency to undermine our privacy, though. Privacy is sacrosanct and, once lost, hard, if not impossible, to reclaim. As individuals, as organizations, as government bodies, we all need to understand and appreciate what data privacy means. We can make smarter cities, but, in doing so, we must also build in both technical and legislative structures that defend our privacy. Our next big step in human history needs to land on solid ground.
In the 60s cartoon The Jetsons, the family lived in a futuristic city with flying cars, a robotic housekeeper, and even a watch that let you do video calling. The Jetsons city of the future is with us in the here and now as we have the technology to build smart cities, and in doing so, we can create amazing places to live and work. This idea of making our cities smart is engaging clever minds all over the world and we are witnessing the emergence of smart places across the globe. All of the visions of smart city projects have one thing in common. They are based upon the creation of, analysis of, and processing of, large amounts of data — aka integrated data exchanges, all predicated on hyper-connectivity achieved often through Internet-enabled devices. These data are the sights and sounds of the processes we use to live and work in municipalities…
Personal privacy is something that once lost, may be difficult to pull back. If we have innocently signed away our data privacy rights because of trust in the status quo, there are no guarantees that our personal data will not be used against ourselves or our family members. The smart city train has already left the station. In a world where the population is increasing and resources are finite, we need to find smarter ways of living together. Smart technologies hold the key to making this happen but we need to proceed with caution and build a layer of respectful trust and privacy in our smart places.
The phrase ‘smart city’ conjures up a vision of a Metropolis like urban jungle. A jungle that is made up of intelligent structures, buildings that know when we enter and leave, traffic that flows easily, and always available parking spaces. A place where the city knows what we want, before we want it, and gets it right every time. This utopian vision of a future is actually fast becoming a reality… But as this brave new world opens up opportunities for business, it also reveals vulnerabilities for the individuals within the smart city too, including their own personal privacy. The smart city is built not only on traditional bricks and mortar but on data too. These data are integral to both the intelligence behind the smart city and our own place in an increasingly digital world. Privacy is one of those things that once lost, is difficult to regain. Are our smart cities leaders taking care, not just to provide efficient, clean living, but to take care of our privacy too?