Until very recently, all indications were that people were keen to live in smart, highly-connected cities. Evidence of this is to be found in a report entitled Building Smarter Cities and Communities, published last year by CompTIA, a leading professional standards setter and provider of certification in the IT field. The report reveals that six US Americans out of every ten surveyed expressed an interest in living in a Smart City. However, this general enthusiasm now appears to be waning somewhat: a recent report by consultancy Vrge Strategies puts as high as 66% the proportion of US citizens who have no wish to set up home in a Smart City. A major reason for this appears to be people’s desire to protect their privacy and safeguard the personal data whose use is one of the pillars of the future cities that tech corporations are inventing today. Fully 67% of those polled stated that they would not share their personal information with digital technology companies, even if that enabled them to cut down on their daily journeys; while 65% said they would not share their medical records, even if that could help them to obtain better health care. And while this lack of trust does not prevent most people from using their smartphones and sharing their data on a day-to-day basis, there appears to be a significant problem when things are scaled up. Connected towns, which have revolutionised access to services, have at the same time helped to transform our ideas about confidentiality, and the time and money we are able to save no longer appear sufficient to compensate for having to surrender information about ourselves. And in a context where 55% of US residents do not feel that tech companies care enough about the impact their products and services have on society, it does now seem essential to restore trust in the entire process.
By Marie-Eléonore Noiré