Smart-city Technologies, Government Surveillance and Privacy: Assessing the Potential for Chilling Effects and Existing Safeguards in the ECHR
35 Pages Posted: 19 Aug 2019 Last revised: 6 Apr 2021
Date Written: August 7, 2019
The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) among others has been developing an extensive jurisprudence on the protection of privacy. Its scope is wide and context-dependant, interferences must be provided by a legal framework of certain quality and they must be proportional to a pursued legitimate aim, such as national security.
Two key technologies behind smart-cities, the Internet of Things (IoT) and big-data analytics, are changing the nature, scale and purpose of data collected by institutions, public or private. Yet, most of current research on the topic is focused on EU or US law. With this in mind, and in order to bridge this gap in the literature, this research aims to assess how government surveillance relying on smart-city technologies could create a chilling effect, thus curtailing the actual enjoyment of privacy and freedom of expression.
We argue that smart-cities are likely to (a) generally weaken privacy by allowing massive data-sets to be cross-referenced, and (b) to obscure the purpose of data collection and thus trump individuals’ perceptions of privacy. We hypothesis that such phenomena may bring a cloud of suspicion on any collection of data and could create a general chilling effect. In such case, even the strong legal safeguards the Court has discovered in recent years may not be enough to prevent it.
Keywords: smart-city, surveillance, privacy, IoT, AI, big-data, human rights, ECHR
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