Smart cities mission risks ushering in Orwellian future

By Rachika A Sahay and Aakash Sharma, HSA Advocates

The Smart Cities Mission was launched by the government in June 2015 with a goal to develop 100 smart cities by 2020 (the deadline has been revised to 2023 now). Though a “smart city” is not defined under the mission statement and guidelines, it includes certain core infrastructure elements essential for a smart city.

It focuses on e-governance, information technology connectivity and digitalization. It envisages rapid exchange of information between citizens, government bodies and third-party service providers.

Smart cities mission
Rachika A Sahay
HSA Advocates

The computing infrastructure, which includes city data centres, gives rise to privacy concerns and the risk of increased surveillance under the guise of promoting safety. Most smart city proposals received by the government under the mission include extensive installation of closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras across cities.

The creation of a consolidated electronic database of information could exponentially expand the potential for identity theft. The wide range of connected devices also raises cybersecurity risks, especially with hackers now capable of affecting city-scale infrastructure. The storage and transmission channels of data in smart cities are also vulnerable to cybercrimes.

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Rachika A Sahay is a partner and Aakash Sharma is an associate at HSA Advocates.

Smart cities mission

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