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Data Protection in Smart Cities:

Pre-Commercial Procurement as a Silver Bullet?


Laurens Vandercruysse, Athena Christofi, Caroline Buts, Michaël Dooms, Peggy Valcke


This work is distributed under the Creative Commons Licence Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0).

Keywords: smart cities, data protection, traditional procurement, pre-commercial procurement

Globally, cities are adopting smart city services processing personal data at a rapidly increasing pace. As custodians of the public interest, public spaces and fundamental rights, cities should consider the need to ensure data protection, and enable democratic oversight and accountability in their procurement processes. Traditional public procurement rarely offers the leeway to substantively tackle this challenge. However, pre-commercial procurement, which allows public sector administrators to be closely involved in the service research and development stage, and to genuinely co-create with private partners, may prevent mismatches between private sector offerings and public sector needs in smart cities. This article contrasts data protection governance in the context of traditional and pre-commercial procurement of smart city services. Through case studies, opportunities and pitfalls for public administrations are distilled.
Keywords: smart cities; data protection; traditional procurement; pre-commercial procurement

Laurens Vandercruysse, Department of Business, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Brussels, Belgium. Athena Christofi, Centre for IT & IP Law - imec, KU Leuven, Leuven, Belgium. Caroline Buts, Department of Applied Economics, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Brussels, Belgium. Michaël Dooms, Department of Business, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Brussels, Belgium. Peggy Valcke, Centre for IT & IP Law - imec, KU Leuven, Leuven, Belgium. For correspondence: <> and <>. This research was presented at the First Interdisciplinary Utrecht University Centre for Public Procurement PhD Forum (30 November 2021), we thank the reviewers and attendees for their useful comments. This research was supported by the Research Foundation Flanders (SPECTRE project-FWO reference number S006318N).


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