Citizens as Consumers in the Data Economy: The Case of Smart Cities
4 Journal of European Consumer and Market Law _(2018) (Forthcoming)
26 Pages Posted: 7 Aug 2018 Last revised: 2 Oct 2018
Date Written: July 19, 2018
This article offers a critical account of the concept of “citizen-consumer” in the context of smart cities. This hybrid concept emerged in the 1990s with the New Labour Movement in the setting of the liberalization and privatization of public infrastructures to refer to the consumption of public goods and services. The notion of “citizen-consumer” recently reappeared in the literature on smart cities as public bodies collaborate closely with private actors to offer more responsive, efficient, and data-driven public services to their residents and visitors. In this modern form of privatization, public bodies treat citizens as consumers of data-driven services. In this article, I argue that treating citizens as consumers can be problematic for four reasons: (i) citizenship and consumer protection have different political and economic foundations; (ii) it relies on the heavy collection of personal data by both public bodies and private companies; (iii) it assumes—often incorrectly—that citizen-consumers in cities have choices and can refuse to give their consent to the data collection underlying the provision of smart public services; (iv) it excludes citizens who are less tech-savvy, do not fit in the vision of smart cities or wish to remain offline. Drawing on an interdisciplinary analysis of the literature on the liberalization of public services, smart cities and consumer protection, this article aims to contribute to the legal literature by shedding new light on the concept of “citizen-consumer” and its implications for the inclusiveness of public services.
Keywords: citizenship; consumer law; smart cities; big data; data economy; vulnerable consumer; exclusion
JEL Classification: K10; K20; K23
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation