Law in the Internet Society

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NamrataMaheshwariSecondEssay 3 - 23 Jan 2020 - Main.NamrataMaheshwari
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 Practical infeasibility is not a valid defense for undermining the importance of allowing each individual to exercise control over her data. Transparency and security would serve as shields protecting the vulnerability created by the limitation on autonomy. Transparency, in a meaningful form unlike the inscrutable privacy policies we see today, would allow for: i) a clear distinction between services for which individual consent on data collection is possible and those for which it is strictly not; and ii) complete autonomy over how you choose to act knowing the extent of your exposure at a given place. Yoked to such transparency is a framework of security through which: i) the purposes for which your data is used is limited and known; ii) you know how and where your data is secured and protected from the misuse that has so far proven to be inevitable; and ii) operators of a smart city are made accountable at every step.
The adoption of these principles as pillars would be laying the foundation for an architecture of devolution. In recognizing the citizen as the ultimate beneficiary, such an architecture serves the related purposes of enhancing autonomy and decentralizing decision-making. A democratic smart city will be one where the citizen - the farmer, the businessman and the rickshaw driver - plays an active role in the operation of the city, not merely by providing consent, but by being in a position to actively contribute to the manner in which the inflow and outflow of data occurs. This is only the only meaningful manner in which the stated goal of smart cities of optimizing the citizen’s day to day life can be achieved.


Data privacy concerns in smart cities need to be addressed through a regulatory framework created in anticipation of technology instead of on its heels. Only then can the purpose of striking the precious balance between fueling innovation, ensuring accountability and protecting democratic values be achieved.


Your principles might be explored further in the context of an architecture of devolution. Data collection for service efficiency can occur by centralizing or by devolving and federating decision-making. Your goals of transparency and security serve architectures that devolve power, thus enhancing rather than only protecting autonomy. The operating system of the city should be modular and decentralized.

This also raises the other design principle you could use to supplement this excellent thinking you've already done: studying outflows as well as inflows of data. How the city makes available data it collects and derives, optimized for the activities of particular people, determines productivity in the entire economy. Taxi drivers, retailers in particular neighborhoods, light industry trying to schedule deliveries and shipments, culture workers trying to keep abreast of materials—the city knows when it is smart, but its intelligence lies in its ability to teach in real time. Think of several hundred thousand RSS feeds that each business or worker could subscribe to, containing exactly the information best estimated by that person to give her or him a way to be more productive, to have a better life. That information flow (prices, markets, conditions, offers) becomes the life's blood of commerce, enabled by a smart city that teaches smartly. Kerla Planning Commission thought about this as early as any government I know of. No one is doing it right yet.

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Revision 3r3 - 23 Jan 2020 - 00:25:48 - NamrataMaheshwari
Revision 2r2 - 12 Jan 2020 - 13:08:08 - EbenMoglen
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