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Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

A smart city can vacuum up details like your location or daily habits — even though you probably haven't agreed to it.

What's happening: Seattle, Oakland and New York City — among the few cities with chief privacy officers — have laid down privacy guardrails for how data gathered in the cities will be used. This month, Portland's city council unanimously approved detailed privacy guidelines. But few have binding rules yet.

"A lot of people have been rolling things out and hoping they'll work out the details during the pilot phase," says Kelsey Finch of the Future of Privacy Forum.

By setting up guardrails ahead of smart-city projects, these cities hope to avoid the controversy in Toronto, where a popular uprising threatens to derail a massive smart city project backed by Google’s sister company, Sidewalk Labs.

  • Torontonians expressed concerns about who would control the sensitive data collected by sensors.
  • In its master plan released last week, Sidewalk Labs suggested establishing an "independent data trust" to set privacy rules for all companies involved in the city's new waterfront development.
  • "We need to build public trust in how the city handles data and technology — especially because we want to handle more data and technology," Kevin Martin, Portland's smart cities manager, tells Axios.

What they’re doing:

  • Portland’s newly approved privacy principles prioritize "transparency and accountability" and "ethical and non-discriminatory use of data." How that works varies from project to project.
  • Oakland is likely to vote on its own citywide privacy principles in the fall, and on an outright ban on facial recognition in the coming weeks, says Joe DeVries, the city’s chief privacy officer.
  • And New York has a privacy policy that binds its city agencies and contractors.

Go deeper:

Go deeper

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

  1. Health: CDC director defends agency's response to pandemic — CDC warns highly transmissible coronavirus variant could become dominant in U.S. in March.
  2. Politics: Biden readies massive shifts in policy for his first days in office.
  3. Vaccine: Fauci: 100 million doses in 100 days is "absolutely" doable.
  4. Economy: Unemployment filings explode again.
  5. Tech: Kids' screen time sees a big increase.
  6. World: WHO team arrives in China to investigate pandemic origins.
Dave Lawler, author of World
3 hours ago - World

Alexey Navalny detained after landing back in Moscow

Navalny and his wife shortly before he was detained. Photo: Kirill Kudryavtsev/AFP via Getty

Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny was detained upon his return to Moscow on Sunday, which came five months after he was poisoned with the nerve agent Novichok. He returned despite being warned that he would be arrested.

The latest: Navalny was stopped at a customs checkpoint and led away alone by officers. He appeared to hug his wife goodbye, and his spokesman reports that his lawyer was not allowed to accompany him.

Mike Allen, author of AM
5 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Biden's "overwhelming force" doctrine

President-elect Biden arrives to introduce his science team in Wilmington yesterday. Photo: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

President-elect Biden has ordered up a shock-and-awe campaign for his first days in office to signal, as dramatically as possible, the radical shift coming to America and global affairs, his advisers tell us. 

The plan, Part 1 ... Biden, as detailed in a "First Ten Days" memo from incoming chief of staff Ron Klain, plans to unleash executive orders, federal powers and speeches to shift to a stark, national plan for "100 million shots" in three months.