The provision of widespread public WiFi access in urban environments makes it principally possible to create social heatmaps of people, providing the means to know where and when these people are at a certain location. The municipality, private companies and/or public-private partnerships can use this information, for example, to organise the local transport options more efficiently. However, the information can also be abused by surveilling the urban society. For example, the police could use it for police investigations (“Who was present at crime scenes?”) or companies could track their customers and/or employees at any public place they are in (unless they have switched off the function of their mobile devices to connect with the public WiFi spots).
This raises the question of how data protection and security can be implemented into the design, for example, of an environment where all public and/or private entities are interconnected in order to take full advantage of the benefits while reducing the data protection risks? Based on research conducted at the Alexander von Humboldt Institute for Internet and Society, INNOVATION AND LAW, together with various stakeholders, are developing reliable privacy and security-by-design solutions in smart city environments.