Amsterdam and Barcelona breaking new ground on data

21st February 2020 Kirsty Tuxford

A groundbreaking technology project offering solutions to people concerned about the control of their personal data has just concluded after three years of pilot projects in Amsterdam and Barcelona.

DECODE, an EU Horizon 2020 project delivered by a consortium of 14 European partners, has developed new technology that allows people to decide who they share their data with, and on what terms.

During the pilots, participants in Amsterdam and Barcelona were given the ability to sign political petitions, share sensor data about noise nuisance and air pollution with their communities and council, and prove their identity via a simple application without having to disclose sensitive information.

Officials in Amsterdam say that DECODE has helped shape the agenda on data and sovereignty in the city.

“As a spin-off of DECODE, Amsterdam invested in a digital identity project,” Aik van Eemeren, Head of Public Technology, City of Amsterdam told Cities Today. “We tested data control solutions, broader than those used in DECODE, such as the attribute-based credential system IRMA. The results are now influencing national decisions on the use of digital identity.”

Together with Dyne, the tech lead of DECODE, Amsterdam has also explored the use of DECODE principles for the Dutch national holiday rental registry and permit system.

“This will happen,” van Eemeren added.

“Procurement starts soon and the product has to be up and running by the end of this year. From R&D in DECODE we are moving to a national solution within a year of the end of DECODE, which is designed to scale Europe-wide, or globally.”

A new report by UK innovation foundation Nesta, titled Common Knowledge: citizen-led data governance for better cities, lays out guidelines for cities on how to regain democratic control of data produced collectively. It calls for cities to take steps to stop data misuse and return the value of personal information to citizens.

One example of best practice in this area is the Cities Coalition of Digital Rights, which will continue the work of DECODE to shape the international agenda on tech for good, to ensure that citizens come first. Barcelona, Amsterdam, New York and more than 50 other cities are already collaborating on this initiative.

“Algorithms and Big Data should be used to serve citizens, improve public services and work conditions,” said Francesca Bria, DECODE Project Coordinator. “This is why we urgently need to invest in technological alternatives that focus on citizens’ rights and create public value and not just profits for a handful of platforms.

“DECODE shows that it is possible to direct more investment in Europe towards next-generation decentralised and privacy-enhancing technology that can be scaled in cities across Europe.”


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