Call for papers on smart city technologies and human rights

The Internet Policy Review invites submissions for the Special Issue “Future-proofing the city: A human rights-based approach to the governance of algorithmic, biometric and smart city technologies”


The research project titled ‘Long-term Human Rights Risks of Smart City Technologies’, the Legal Tech Lab of the Faculty of Law of the University of Helsinki, the Graduate Program in Science and Technology Studies at York University and the City Institute at York University invite you to submit abstracts for the special issue ‘Future-Proofing the City: A Human Rights-Based Approach to the Governance of Algorithmic, Biometric and Smart City Technologies’ in the Internet Policy Review. A thematic workshop will be held in connection to the publication, on the 26th of August by the Legal Tech Lab at Helsinki University.


Smart city policies have aimed to make urban spaces safer, more sustainable and innovative by means of big data, biometric technologies and, more recently, artificial intelligence (AI). Pursuing the same goals of safety and economic efficiency, the public sector has been rapidly adopting biometric and automated decision-making systems in areas ranging from law enforcement to transportation to healthcare. These developments have spurred controversy over the surveillance, nudging and algorithmic governance to which citizens are subjected, which may threaten their human and fundamental rights. Scholars have identified certain smart city projects as advancing gender discrimination and land dispossession practices. Furthermore, smart city technologies may facilitate surveillance creep and risk chilling effects on freedoms of movement, association and thought. Implementation of emotion recognition technology in the streets further undermines our rights to human dignity and autonomy. In the worst case scenario, they may enable digital repression.

The human rights–based approach (HRBA) is of acute theoretical and practical relevance both in the context of research on smart cities and in the field of AI ethics, yet the dialogue between these fields is rather limited. While sustainability remains a central driver behind smart city policies both in the European Union and the United States, a growing body of research points towards the wider human rights implications of these initiatives. Scholars have supported the application of human rights as a normative framework for governing AI throughout its life cycle, to compensate for the vagueness and unenforceability of AI ethics frameworks. Other promising developments in this area include human rights–based designs in AI, impact assessment methods and audits.

The objective of this special issue is to gain a holistic understanding of the ethical and human rights implications of the algorithmic, biometric and smart city technologies that have been quietly invading our streets. We intend to stimulate a productive dialogue between researchers studying smart cities, AI ethics and regulation, digital surveillance and platform economy in a variety of disciplines, including science and technology studies, media studies, law, urban studies, critical algorithm and data studies, surveillance studies, political science, computer science, philosophy and gender studies.

We invite reflection on to what extent the GDPR and proposed regulations such as the EU’s AI act and others might address the collective harms associated with artificial intelligence. Especially, whether these initiatives put forward to secure fundamental rights in the digital realm might account for issues that arise at the interface of digital and spatial dimensions in a smart city. Submissions taking into account the temporal dimension of human rights protection in smart cities are encouraged. While the special issue mainly focuses on the European and North American context, we furthermore invite contributions discussing solutions for other jurisdictions, where they build a dialogue with the European developments, such as the fundamental rights–driven technology regulation.

We invite contributions focusing on issues such as:

  • Ethical and human rights risks associated with algorithmic, biometric and smart city technologies, including gaps in existing human rights frameworks
  • Municipalities’ means to ensure and influence the protection of human rights
  • Human rights adherence by design and through impact assessments and audits
  • Human rights–driven regulation of AI and data, including fields such as corporate human rights due diligence and public procurement
  • Human rights adherence through governance and standardisation
  • Citizens’ means to reclaim their human rights in a smart city, including civil disobedience
  • Using technology to protect human rights and achieve the SDG 11 of sustainable cities and communities

Click here for detailed event description.


Special issue editors

Alina Wernick

Anna Aryushina


Important dates

21 March 2022: Release of the Call for papers

31 May: Deadline for the expression of interest and abstract submissions (500 word abstracts) directly to

24 June: Feedback / Invitation to submit full text submissions

26 August: A thematic workshop (optional) held jointly by the Legal Tech Lab, Faculty of Law, University of Helsinki (in-person or remote participation)

18 September: Full text submissions deadline. All details on text submissions can be found under:

31 November: Authors receive comprehensive peer review and feedback

31 December: Final submissions

15 March 2023: Publication of the special issue


For further questions, please get in touch with Dr. Alina Wernick:  


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