Long-term human rights risks of smart city technologies

“The Long-Term Human Rights Risks of Smart City Technologies” project is funded by the Kone Foundation Finland. Smart city technologies, i.e. big data, Internet-of-things, applications of artificial intelligence and biometric identification systems are envisioned to enhance the efficiency, sustainability and safety of cities. Yet, when such innovations are used in public spaces and contexts such as public safety, they may also pose significant risks to a number of human rights, such as privacy, data protection and non-discrimination as well as introduce other ethical challenges. The risks may materialize over a longer period of time.

The transdisciplinary project investigates how the human rights risks associated with the technologies can be accounted for ex-ante as well as throughout their life cycles, and which actors are best positioned to be vested with such responsibility. It reviews the roles of data protection, non-discrimination, public procurement, corporate responsibility law as well as AI regulation and other governance mechanisms in mitigating the human rights risks. Ideally, relevant safeguards should be available to diverse types of public agencies adopting smart city technologies and protect also against the reappropriation of the technology for oppressive surveillance purposes.

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