6 minuten

Denk mee: wat maakt een stad slim?

Geef je mening over lokale en Europese technologiepolitiek

Van wie zijn de data die door sensoren worden verzameld in de stad? Welke besluiten mogen genomen worden door algoritmen? Vertrouwen we de zorg voor ouderen toe aan robots? Willen we camera’s met gezichtsherkenning op straat? GroenLinks werkt aan een standpunt over slimme steden voor de Europese Groenen. Suggesties zijn welkom!

Het gebruik van big data en slimme informatietechnologie roept veel politieke vragen op. Om die te beantwoorden moeten we stilstaan bij de waarden die we willen beschermen en verwezenlijken in de stad. Een waardengedreven technologiepolitiek vereist actie op alle politieke niveaus, inclusief het Europese.

GroenLinks wil daarom samen met een aantal zusterpartijen een bondig standpunt over smart cities voorleggen aan de Europese Groene Partij. Hieronder staat een voorlopige tekst van de resolutie, in het Engels. Deze is gebaseerd op het Handvest voor de Slimme Stad dat Wetenschappelijk Bureau GroenLinks in samenwerking met de Green European Foundation heeft geschreven.

Zo reageer je

Vanwege de coronacrisis is de behandeling van de resolutie over smart cities uitgesteld. In december zullen de Europese groene partijen er - al dan niet online - over debatteren en stemmen. GroenLinks gaat door met het voorbereidende werk. Jouw mening stellen we daarbij op prijs. Op- en aanmerkingen bij de tekst kun je in het reactieveld onderaan deze pagina zetten. Dat mag uiteraard ook in het Nederlands.

Draft resolution on smart cities

All over Europe, municipalities want to become ‘smart cities’, front-runners in the use of big data and smart information technologies. Since technology influences our lives, our society and even our ethics, these innovations cannot be left to engineers and managers. New technologies require public debate and democratic control.

Smart technologies offer opportunities for improving the quality of life in cities, for reducing their ecological footprint, and for creating new urban commons. But they may also present threats to civil liberties and to social justice, especially where smart city solutions are pushed by big tech companies. The smart city should not be an end in itself. A smart city is only really smart if data collection and artificial intelligence are steered by values. The values of democracy, connectedness, human dignity, privacy, sustainability and equality should be put at the heart of smart cities.1

Responsible smart cities

For the European Greens, the following elements are key features of responsible smart cities:

  1. In a smart city, technological innovations are preceded by public debate and informed democratic decisions. Decision-making is supported by impact assessments which, inter alia, map the possible unintended consequences of new technologies.
     
  2. A smart city sets clear, values-based design requirements for technology. These include open source, interoperability, security, privacy, user-friendliness, accountability, energy efficiency, circularity and the involvement of all stakeholders in an inclusive and gender-sensitive process.
     
  3. A smart city uses technology to connect and empower people. It supports citizen sensing: citizens taking their own measurements around their living environments in order to denounce problems like air pollution, for instance. It promotes new urban commons, such as cooperative platforms that permit the pooling and sharing of clean energy and vehicles.
     
  4. A smart city organises resilience. It aims for diversity and modularity in its systems and resources. It invests in cybersecurity. It uses open standards, free and open source software and open hardware.
     
  5. A smart city avoids dependence on big tech companies, especially those which treat personal data as merchandise. It works on a digital public infrastructure, in cooperation with other democratic governments and citizens.
     
  6. A smart city protects privacy and personal information. It gives people maximum control over their personal data. It protects people’s right not to be followed in the public sphere and bans automated facial recognition cameras.
     
  7. In a smart city, data that is not traceable to a person is a public commons. Open data requirements are extended to all companies operating on behalf of or with the support of the city.
     
  8. A smart city sets limits to decision-making by algorithms, in accordance with the GDPR. It has the algorithms that are used by and in the city scrutinised for discriminatory bias and makes them public. It resists the temptation to feed algorithms with a wide range of personal data in order to predict the risk of ‘unwanted’ behaviour; this would result in a surveillance state for the poor.2
     
  9. A smart city uses all policy tools, from taxes to purchases, to accelerate the deployment of green technology, while preserving other public values. For instance, privacy by design is paramount for smart energy grids and mobility-as-a-service platforms.
     
  10. A smart city recognises people’s right to meaningful human contact,3 in healthcare, in education and in dealings with the government. It makes sure that (home) care technology is aimed at supporting human carers instead of replacing them.
     
  11. A smart city combats the inequalities that might be exacerbated by technological innovations. It makes sure that people can communicate offline with municipal offices and service providers. It provides assistance to people with few digital skills or limited access to the internet. It stands up for the rights of workers in the platform economy and fights for a fair distribution of income, wealth and housing.

European policies in support of smart cities

The European Greens call on the European Union to act in support of responsible smart cities:

  1. (Local) democratic control, fundamental rights such as privacy and social values should be firmly anchored in the EU’s research and innovation mission for climate-neutral and smart cities4 under the new Horizon Europe programme.
     
  2. The EU needs to break the dominance of Big Tech by forcing them to unbundle platforms and services and by prescribing protocol interoperability.5 Open data requirements should be extended to companies. The trade in personal data must be banned. Privacy-friendly, non-commercial and cooperative platforms and services deserve support.
     
  3. The EU should adopt a ‘human in command’ approach to artificial intelligence (AI). Algorithms for ‘risk scoring’ of citizens by public authorities and the police must be considered ‘high-risk’ AI applications that need stricter regulation. The automated collection and processing of biometric data from the public sphere should be banned.
     
  4. A sustainable economic recovery from the COVID-19 crisis makes a bold European Green Deal more necessary than ever for. It should boost green technology, notably by putting a higher price tag on harmful emissions and the use of finite natural resources. Massive public investment is required to drive innovation towards a climate-neutral and circular Europe.

  5. Due diligence in supply chains must become mandatory. Now that renewable energy technologies drive up the demand for metals, it is all the more important to ensure that our smart cities are not someone else’s civil war or ecological disaster.6
     
  6. Large commercial platforms such as Uber and Airbnb need to be regulated in the upcoming Digital Services Act, notably to protect workers, consumers and neighbourhoods. The Act should give more leeway to municipalities that wish to protect public values against the disruptive effects of platform capitalism.

Voetnoten 

1. This resolution is inspired by the Green European Foundation’s Charter for the Smart City, 2019.

2. Philip Alston, UN Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights, Digital Welfare States and Human Rights, 2019 and John Henley & Robert Booth, ‘Welfare surveillance system violates human rights, Dutch court rules’, The Guardian, 5 Feb 2020.

3. Rathenau Institute, Human Rights in the Robot Age, 2017.

5. European Digital Rights (EDRi), Interoperability: A way to escape toxic online environments, 2019.

Reacties

Frans Jorna

As a long-time member of Dutch Groen Links (Green Lift) and a public servant working on digital innovation on behalf of a city, I am truely disapppointed about the inability, in this declaration, to define the digital transformation for what it is: a myriad of digital interdependencies, not being steered by one city's ambition, but a host of demands, needs, wishes and safeguards - and yes, all shorts of policies and regulations. Concepts such as due diligence and oversight are in urgent need of an overhaul. We cannot govern digital data flows by paper contracts and regulations. Moreover, that what people are already doing themselves with data is completely overlooked.

Marcel Haenen

@FransJorna: Regulations do matter. Consider the impact of the GDPR.

Gerard Freriks

Item 8: A smart city sets limits to decision-making by algorithms
-Why only limits when ' by algorithms'?
-Algorithms must be public and goal-bound in accordance with its feed of goal-bound data.
-'Resist the temptation…' Resits is too weak. I propose: ' make impossible' instead of resist

Richard

@GerardFreriks: Thanks for your suggestions.
Paragraph 8 only deals with algorithmic decisions and predictions, not with decision-making in general.
The principle of purpose limitation is already implied in the reference to the GDPR and in the last sentence. We need to be brief.
At your behest, we have included 'and makes them public' in paragraph 8. This transparency requirement can also be found in the Charter for the Smart City.
In my view, the words 'resist the temptation' reflect the reality that there is a strong push from a.o. civil servants and companies that are into 'data-driven policies' to re-purpose personal data for predictive analytics. The (banned) fraud detection algorithm SyRI is a case at hand.

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