Robert Rattle

PhD Candidate | Thesis - Negotiating privacy and trust in the geoaware smart city

Research programs: Digital Inclusion & Participation

Research groups: Urban Media and Digital Geographies

Thesis abstract

This thesis investigates privacy – specifically location privacy – in the smart city. Smart cities are built on and driven by data generated by citizens. Increasingly, much of that citizen-generated data is spatial, containing information that can locate citizens in time and place. Location information can reveal intimate, personal details and can amplify citizen privacy concerns and threaten public trust in smart city projects and technologies. Theoretically framed by critical data studies and contextual privacy, this project takes a qualitative case study approach using key informant interviews with smart city planners, and design workshops with citizens, drawn from two smart city case study sites: the Southeast Queensland Digital Twin Project in Brisbane, Australia, and the Montreal Smart City Project in Canada.

The research seeks to identify how smart city planners and citizens understand and negotiate the privacy implications of sharing personal location data as a necessary part of smart city engagement and how these different perspectives can inform more citizen-centred location privacy practices. Findings demonstrate that smart city planners consider location privacy through the lens of regulation and risk management. In contrast, citizens view privacy through the lens of social relations and power structures providing rich, complex, and heterogeneous interpretations of privacy. Citizens were receptive to greater engagement in smart city privacy analysis and project planning and were willing to negotiate personal privacy trade-offs for wider social benefits. I outline an emergent framework through which smart city planners can alleviate growing concerns about location privacy. In doing so, the thesis contributes to a growing body of research addressing the significant privacy implications of data-driven urbanism and urban governance as well as research addressing geoprivacy as an emergent and highly sensitive form of privacy within these contexts.

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