Greg Lindsay's Blog

May 20, 2021  |  permalink

GovTech: Will Data Privacy Issues Affect New Orleans’ Broadband Push?

GovTech’s Skip Descant was kind enough to quote me at length in his story about New Orleans’s “Advanced Broadband and Smart City” RFP that proposes coupling widespread municipal broadband (good) with surveillance capitalism tech to pay for it (bad). Here are a few of my thoughts:

A lack of regulation in areas like consumer data protection can stymie smart city projects. One of the most high-profile rollbacks of urban technology was in San Diego, where city officials pumped the brakes on the data collection of thousands of smart streetlights following a wave of resident concerns around how that data was shared, particularly with police. Controversies about government-sanctioned surveillance have only become more pronounced in the wake of national awareness around equity and social justice following the murder of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis last year.

“I’m worried about things like what happened in San Diego, for example,” said Greg Lindsay, director of applied research at NewCities, expressing concern about large-scale smart city deployment in the absence of strong consumer data protection and regulation.

Several consumer data protection bills have been introduced in Louisiana but have failed to advance, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

One approach, said Lindsay, may be to separate the broadband expansion part of the initiative from the smart city efforts, as a way to avoid attaching equity to “this classic surveillance capitalist approach.”

“This is an important conversation at every level, as we’ve seen the call for a national rural broadband rollout as part of President Biden’s infrastructure bill,” Lindsay said. “So there is this sort of widespread understanding that broadband is essential. However, that it actually includes these provisions here about widespread surveillance technology as part of it raises all sorts of red flags.”

“It’s really the question of ‘How do you ensure that it’s being kept from police?’” he added. “I think there should be a conversation that goes beyond New Orleans about this.”

A 2018 investigation by The Verge uncovered a partnership between the New Orleans Police Department and Palantir, a Silicon Valley technology company, which used software to trace residents’ ties to criminal activity or gang membership. The program was disclosed to neither the city council nor residents, the investigation found.

Posted by Greg Lindsay  |  Categories:  |  Comments

About Greg Lindsay

» Folllow me on Twitter.
» Email me.
» See upcoming events.

Greg Lindsay is a journalist, urbanist, futurist, and speaker. He is the director of applied research at NewCities and director of strategy at its mobility offshoot CoMotion.  He is also a partner at FutureMap, a geo-strategic advisory firm based in Singapore, a non-resident senior fellow of The Atlantic Council’s Foresight, Strategy, and Risks Initiative, and co-author of Aerotropolis: The Way We’ll Live Next.

» More about Greg Lindsay


October 15, 2021

The VISION Podcast by Protiviti

October 02, 2021

The National Association of Realtors’ C5 Summit

October 01, 2021

Fast Company Innovation Festival 2021

September 20, 2021

CREtech Climate Presents: MOVE

» More blog posts

Articles by Greg Lindsay

-----  |  July 1, 2021

2021 Speaking Topics

Fast Company  |  June 2021

Why the Great Lakes need to be the center of our climate strategy

Fast Company  |  March 2020

How to design a smart city that’s built on empowerment–not corporate surveillance

URBAN-X  |  December 2019


CityLab  |  December 10, 2018

The State of Play: Connected Mobility in San Francisco, Boston, and Detroit

Harvard Business Review  |  September 24, 2018

Why Companies Are Creating Their Own Coworking Spaces

CityLab  |  July 2018

The State of Play: Connected Mobility + U.S. Cities

Medium  |  May 1, 2017

The Engine Room

Fast Company  |  January 19, 2017

The Collaboration Software That’s Rejuvenating The Young Global Leaders Of Davos

The Guardian  |  January 13, 2017

What If Uber Kills Public Transport Instead of Cars

Backchannel  |  January 4, 2017

The Office of the Future Is… an Office

New Cities Foundation  |  October 2016

Now Arriving: A Connected Mobility Roadmap for Public Transport

Inc.  |  October 2016

Why Every Business Should Start in a Co-Working Space

Popular Mechanics  |  May 11, 2016

Can the World’s Worst Traffic Problem Be Solved?

The New Republic  |  January/February 2016

Hacking The City

Fast Company  |  September 22, 2015

We Spent Two Weeks Wearing Employee Trackers: Here’s What We Learned

Fast Company  |  September 21, 2015

HR Meets Data: How Your Boss Will Monitor You To Create The Quantified Workplace

Inc.  |  March 2015

Which Contacts Should You Keep in Touch With? Let This Software Tell You

Inc.  |  March 2015

5 Global Cities of the Future

Global Solution Networks  |  December 2014

Cities on the Move

» See all articles