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Yinchuan offers cautionary tale on Big Data


For cities who are eager to collect and analyze reams of data about everything from traffic to garbage collection, privacy of citizens is often an afterthought. Federico Guerrini writes for Forbes that Yinchuan, China offers a cautionary tale for cities making the leap to Big Data.

Located in northern China, Yinchuan is among the nation’s earliest adopters of the so-called “Internet of Things.” The city relies on a network of wireless sensors for traffic management and optimized garbage collection, and is a telemedicine pioneer. Less clear, Guerrini writes, is how data collected in Yinchuan and elsewhere might be used and whether it would be anonymized.

He notes that the technology integration has another component that almost certainly would stoke resistance in Europe, where privacy protections are stronger. Radio frequency identification (RFID) tags are being added to hundreds of thousands of private cars. While these tiny electronic devices can help authorities managed road congestion, they also could be used to track the everyday movements of citizens, dissidents and political opponents. Even more troubling, Guerrini adds, is that Yinchuan is widely viewed as a smart city “blueprint” for other municipalities in China.


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