Private information in public spaces: Facial recognition in the times of smart urban governance


  • Juliana NOVAES University of Sao Paulo



facial recognition, personal data, public services, surveillance, smart cities


Cities are the stage of a curious phenomenon in which people feel at the same time at home and like complete strangers. A city provides simultaneously the familiarity of its residents concerning places and people and the possibility of living in relative anonymity. However, the last few decades have been accompanied by an increase in the use of information and communication technologies in the infrastructure and functioning of urban centers around the world. There has been a move towards the development of the commercial ecosystem of so-called smart cities, with the public administration increasingly partnering with private corporations to offer solutions in public services that involve the processing of personal data from citizens. Objectives: This paper aims to discuss the new dilemmas that arrive with the growth of surveillance technologies applied to urban centers and the increasing participation of the private sector in the processing of data whose origin lies within public services. Prior work:  In order to accomplish so, this article analyzes this phenomenon from a capitalism surveillance framework perspective, in light of international data protection standards and with a primary focus on the analysis of the processing of citizens' data in the provision of public services Approach: The main approaches used are literature review and case studies. The first section will be dedicated to the discussion about the concept of “smart citiesâ€; the second section will bring up the study of three cases about the implementation of facial recognition in the public transport system of the city of Sao Paulo; and the third and fourth sections are dedicated to the analysis of the legitimacy, risks, political and social implications of this type of surveillance practices. Results: As a result, this paper points to some of the issues that arise with the implementation of surveillance technologies in public services, such as the invasions of individuals’ rights of privacy and freedom of expression. Implications: The study offers an opportunity for researchers and policymakers to have a perspective on how these practical cases reflect some of the academic discussions around surveillance in smart cities. Value: This paper, therefore, offers an original analysis of three existing cases and their insertion into a broader discussion of surveillance in urban centers and some of the risks involved.







How to Cite

“Private information in public spaces: Facial recognition in the times of smart urban governance”, SCRD, vol. 5, no. 1, pp. 31–43, Feb. 2021, doi: 10.25019/scrd.v5i1.94.

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