Planners will be presented with new challenges and opportunities in an era of data-enhanced government.
For urban planners, the promise of data offers unprecedented access to information, citizen engagement, and solutions to some of the most significant challenges facing urban areas, such as traffic, infrastructure, and pollution. Data used for land use and planning decisions are largely collected and owned by government entities, however, in the near future, private companies will increasingly maintain data.
This might be frightening to some citizens, but these notions of data privatization are nothing new. Much of our data are already going to private companies such as Facebook, which collects approximately 500 terabytes of data on its users each day, and Google, which has incredible abilities to mine user informationfrom email and its many other applications. In our report, Local Government 2035: Strategic trends and implications of new technologies, we outline trends in data security, privatization, and dependency that are likely to be fully developed 20 years from now in hopes of spurring discussion amongst the people that will be impacted by it most: citizens and public agencies.
Private companies are collecting data on consumers during processes we take little time to consider. Take, for instance, wearable technologies such as fitness trackers that monitor your activity and, essentially, quantify your lifestyle by counting movements, heart rate, sleep patterns, and location. The research firm Markets and Markets projects that the wearables industry will be an $11 billion market by 2020, largely through the sale of wristwear and footwear. In addition to tracking what you want them to track, wearables can track other types of data about the user that can be subject to leaking or abuse. In a 2015 study by Symantec Corp of wearables, they found that 100 percent of the devices were trackable. Additionally, they find that one in five were also transmitting user-generated data (i.e., names, passwords, email addresses) without encryption.
Similar to how advertisers pay companies for their data, public agencies might soon begin paying the private sector for its data. However, the public sector will need more than just data; the public sector will also need the private sector for data maintenance, management, and acquisition. For instance, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced in 2014 that they will explore location information by establishing a national license tracking system that could potentially scan massive numbers of license plates. Privacy and civil liberty concerns over allowing DHS that level of access to citizen whereabouts without warrants prompted DHS to seek bids from companies that already gather the data and would grant Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) access.
The trend of public agencies sharing data has several important implications for planners to note. First, as data ownership, data collection, and data storage of most data on citizens moves from public to private, new attention will be paid to finding an appropriate collaborative balance with the private sector. ....