Smart city technology risks Dutch privacy and public ownership


As part of efforts to tone down street fights at night Statumseind in Eindhoven, the Netherlands, the city has deployed technology: wifi trackers, cameras, and microphones attached to lamp posts detect aggressive behaviour and alert police. The data collected by these sensors is used to profile, nudge, or actively target people. However, the area does not notify visitors that data is being collected and kept. The eastern Dutch city of Enschede uses smartphones' wifi signals to identify and track the phones' MAC addresses to find out where people go and how often. Enschede also has launched a smart traffic app intended to reward people for choosing options other than driving; the app also creates "personal mobility profiles" that are retained by the company Mobidot. Utrecht has a burglary predictor, a social media monitoring room, smart streetlights with sensors, and scanner cars that detect those with municipal tax debt while dispensing parking tickets, and keeps track of the young people hanging out in the streets. Besides the privacy issues, the technology brings with it privatisation; CityTec, which manages 2,000 parking lots, 30,000 traffic lights, and 500,000 lamp posts around the Netherlands, has refused to share the data its collects with municipalities, calling the information "competition-sensitive". Similarly, after Sensor City, an experiment in building a sensor network to manage and direct traffic in Assen, filed for bankruptcy in 2017, its assets, including the sensors and underlying fibre optic network, its assets were sold to a private company. The municipality will now have to make a deal with the new owner to cover using its public traffic lights and parking signs.

writer: Saskia Naafs
publication: Guardian

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