Stage 2
13:00 - 13:30
Live Translation
Smart Cities
Request Denied: Designing for Consent in Data Collection

Short thesis

Smart City infrastructure is surveillance infrastructure because data collection is part of making cities “smart.” A central privacy challenge of Smart Cities is how to communicate what data is being collected, by whom, and for what purpose. This talk explores the user experience of Smart Cities from a privacy and consent perspective. Imminent changes in the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) provide an opportunity to rethink consent in data collection. By critiquing existing Smart City apps, we identify opportunities for better communicating how personal data is used.


Smart Cities make decisions based on data, such as moving shared bicycles from quiet areas to busy areas. However, Smart City applications are extremely limited in how they communicate what data is collected and how it used. It is often unclear to people using bike sharing services how their location is tracked or who has access to that data. The main way data collection is currently handled in applications is by presenting legal statements that people must either agree to or reject in their entirety. Rejecting the terms means not being able to use the service, so accepting the terms without reading them is the default behavior.

Imminent changes in the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) provide an opportunity to rethink ways of giving and denying consent to data collection beyond the status quo of clicking a box to agree to legal terms and conditions. Particularly needed is discussion of how Smart City user interfaces communicate data collection in context, while people move through the city. For example, how might policies be read or understood on a phone screen or public display?

Inclusive cities cannot require a personal smartphone to access services, but current user experience design techniques emphasize interaction through smartphone apps. Technology that treats people as consumers voluntarily choosing to use products are not appropriate models for respecting the rights of citizens using essential services. New interaction techniques are needed to help people give and revoke consent to collect their data as they use services in a Smart City.

Using photography and screenshots from existing applications such as bike sharing apps, this talk makes Smart Cities and privacy accessible to a general audience by focusing on the everyday user experience.

The talk covers:

  • Ways applications manage personal profiles and permissions.

  • How application design choices shape the use of public space.

  • How user experience design enables consent or rejection of data collection.