Smart Cities, Big Data, and the Resilience of Privacy

49 Pages Posted: 21 Apr 2016 Last revised: 21 Sep 2017

See all articles by Janine S. Hiller

Janine S. Hiller

Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University

Jordan "Jody" Blanke

Mercer University - Stetson-Hatcher School of Business

Date Written: March 3, 2016


A sensor strapped, mobile manipulated, Internet integrated smart city is quickly becoming a reality in urban centers around the world. The resulting smart city is dependent on data that is collected from buildings, infrastructure, people, and third party data brokers. The United Nations Global Pulse is exploring how big data can be used to build smart cities in developing and emerging regions of the world, and large technology companies, like Microsoft and Cisco, are helping to design the data structures and security that is so fundamental to smart cities everywhere. Yet, the smart city’s pervasive use of sensors and citizen surveillance challenges the survival of individual privacy rights when every movement may be tracked, compared with everyone else’s movements, combined with vast troves of individually identified data, and immediately used to “nudge” behaviors. This article first describes the reality and immediacy of the sensor embedded, data-driven smart city; from Boston and Chicago to Songdo, South Korea and Santander, Spain. Following an analysis of potential current legal and ethical protections for privacy, the authors use a novel framework for addressing the preservation of privacy in the smart city utilizing a resilience framework. A resilience lens is used in multiple disciplines to determine if systems have the capacity to survive, adapt, and potentially evolve, and is applied here to analyze whether the fundamental essence of privacy can be resilient in the smart city. It is concluded that if the legal and regulatory systems that are available today cannot adapt, then our fundamental right to privacy will become brittle and break under the burden of ubiquitous and opaque surveillance in the smart city.

Keywords: smart city, big data, data analytics, privacy, resilience

Suggested Citation

Hiller, Janine S. and Blanke, Jordan M., Smart Cities, Big Data, and the Resilience of Privacy (March 3, 2016). Hastings Law Journal, Vol. 68, No. 2 (2017), Available at SSRN:

Janine S. Hiller (Contact Author)

Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University ( email )

250 Drillfield Drive
Blacksburg, VA 24061
United States

Jordan M. Blanke

Mercer University - Stetson-Hatcher School of Business ( email )

United States
6785476313 (Phone)


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