The 5G networks that are being deployed all around Europe can provide inhabitants of cities with sustainable living, reduced traffic and stringent security, but the technology can also determine a slippery slope towards mass surveillance.
Sustainable living, reduced traffic, faster connectivity, stringent security: among other appealing possibilities, the solutions promised by smart cities have ushered in a wave of optimism and a rush for the widespread implementation of 5G on which they will run. However, while these prospects seem appealing on the surface, the social and political threat that comes hand in hand with the contentious privacy aspect of these smart cities and their infringement on civil liberties cannot be taken lightly.
Indeed, digital solutions could improve some quality-of-life indicators by 10-30 per cent , according to McKinsey. These include areas like the environment where greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions could go down by 10-15 per cent, while crime could be reduced by up to 40 per cent.
Cities are major environmental hazards, consuming 78 per cent of the world’s energy and producing more than 60 per cent of GHGs, a UN Habitat report deemed , and that’s despite them accounting for less than 2 per cent of the Earth’s surface. With two-thirds of the world predicted to be living in urban communities by 2030 , the case for more technological integration to assist with the challenges that this will bring grows stronger.
Thousands of sensors are installed across urban areas, connecting to a common cloud which then translates the data produced by the population to find real-time solutions to its daily running and future growth. In this perspective, smart cities sound an enticing prospect.
However, as big tech companies with questionable track records on data privacy are at the forefront of these dwellings which monitor, store and adapt to every move by citizens, smart cities sit at a contentious border between convenience and liberty.
The Cambridge Analytica scandal that rocked Facebook and the