Physical spaces are being filled with monitoring devices that create new opportunities and risks for landlords.

Physical spaces are full of people — working, socializing, shopping, studying, exercising, and recharging. These spaces are now being filled with new sensors, cameras, voice-activated devices, smart furniture, access control systems, network infrastructure, and thousands of other IoT devices that gather unprecedented amounts of data.

This data is personal, and it is often the property – and the responsibility – of those who own and operate these physical spaces. Available tools can already use this data to identify faces, moods, and behavioral patterns; read lips, draw meaningful assumptions about income, education, and wellness levels; track productivity and habits; and more.

Is your organization prepared?

Data creates new opportunities to make spaces better, and improve short-term operating income. It also introduces a growing array of financial, reputation, and political risks. Gartner just listed digital ethics and privacy as one of the top strategic technology trends for 2019. This topic is on the public’s mind and it will only grow in importance over the next decade.

Just look at the news from the last few months: Cadillac Fairview faced backlash after using face recognition systems in its shopping malls; Toronto’s Quayside “smart city” project is facing strong resistance from local residents; Facebook lost $119 B in market cap in a single day due to unsavory data usage practices; GDPR expanded corporate exposure to liability and class action for data usage; AirBnB hosts were caught recording their guests; a hacker group held the whole city of Atlanta to ransom; Walmart patented a cart that measures its visitors’ pulse and body temperature; and a university raised concerns by installing Echo voice-assistants in its housing project.

Real estate owners, developers, and operators should ask themselves the following questions:

  1. Do you know what data is being collected within your assets?
  2. Do you know how this data is used, stored, and shared with 3rd parties?
  3. Are your employees adequately trained to protect this data and aware of the latest threats?
  4. Are your tenants, visitors, and employees informed about how their personal data is being collected and shared?
  5. How will your investors and customers respond in case of a scandal or breach?

The proactive approach

Today, I announce a new nonprofit initiative to set and uphold privacy and data protection standards for physical spaces: ProperPrivacy.org aims to facilitate the adoption of technologies that make physical spaces safer, healthier, and more productive — without undermining the dignity and trust of the people these spaces serve.

Proper Privacy is not anti business and is not a tech-bashing platform. The organization’s mandate and activities will be determined by its Steering Committee, Advisor Circle, members and… you. This is an opportunity for investors, developers, operators, and entrepreneurs to play an active role in shaping the industry’s evolution.

The goal is to balance the interests of all stakeholders and work to (1) define and uphold industry standards regarding the way data is collected, used, and shared; (2) train executives and employees about new tools and best practices; (3) alert the industry in real time about emerging threats and concerns; (4) work with partners to certify specific devices, systems, and assets; and (5) foster a constructive debate with customers, partners, and regulators.

How to get involved?

Organizations: We are looking for leading real estate investors, operators, entrepreneurs, service and technology providers to become Founding Members and help shape the standards and practices that will guide the industry’s evolution.

Individuals: We are looking for experts in cybersecurity, IoT, privacy law, ethics, public policy, and real estate operation to join our Steering Committee and Advisor Circle.

Please share this message with your colleagues and friends, and visit ProperPrivacy.org to learn more and get in touch.