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UoC August 5, 2020

Data transparency is not a novel concept and has been codified in legislation such as the Illinois Data Transparency and Privacy Act 2020 and the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR). It refers to the requirement that data subjects (persons from whom data is collected) must be informed clearly and concisely of the type of data collected and how it is being used.

This principle has often been cited in the context of government collection and use of public data and has led to various initiatives even open data initiatives. However, in the context of smart cities where there is an overlap of responsibility between the government and private entities, the concept must take a broader application with the ultimate objective being the openness and shared control of personal data between private entities, government, and the data subject.

The first step towards data transparency would be the recognition of the role of the government as a ‘trustee’ of data collected in a smart city. On this premise, the government must then consolidate the data and limit access to it. One of the measures explored in Toronto amidst the privacy concerns is the development of an independent Data Trust which serves as both a repository and a single access point for all data in the smart city. 

With a single consolidated storage point, data subjects must be able to identify how their data is being used and where they so please, opt-in or out of usages. Such a platform is being tested in Barcelona on the concept of shared control. The system democratises data and attracts accountability. For example, should a project raise controversial questions of ethics, data subjects will have a direct say by choosing to opt-out of having their data used in such a project.