Saudi Arabian Mega City Neom to Harvest Large Amounts Of Data From Future Residents

Saudi Arabia is currently in the works towards building a futuristic megacity named Neom. Plans for the city are to ask its future residents for a large amount of personal data to aid its administration. Plans for the establishment of this new city were announced in 2017 by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. This city would be a place for “dreamers”, and would cost $500 billion USD whilst being run by artificial intelligence.

Just last month, Neom’s head of technology, Joseph Bradley, stated that he wanted to collect 90% of available data from residents and smart infrastructures including energy public transport, and public safety. The collection of such data will be through an operating system called Neos.

Each resident of Neom will have a unique ID number which Neos will use to process a range of data from heart-rate, bank details, facial recognition cameras, and more. These residents will be given the option of choosing how much personal data they submit to Neos to reinforce the right to privacy.

Experts hold a range of opinions on Neos and this type of surveillance, whereby some have described it as an extraordinary proposition, and others have stated that it leaves the door open to corrupt exploitation of personal data. Although, it has been affirmed that one can opt-in and out of this system. An anonymous individual has told the insider their worries on this scheme by stating that “we have no clear sense of what will be done with this date… from what we know about Saudi Arabia, you know it’s unlikely to be used for good.”

The Saudi Arabian government holds a long history of being accused of hacking the phones of journalists, activists, and people of high power including Amazon founder Jeff Bezos. This has been seen as a result of the lack of regulation of technologies that allows companies to use software against these groups as stated above.

On the other end of Neos comes a range of positives. People will value the convenience of such a system as much of the data collected is likely to have already been taken from other tech companies today due to the technology they use. This system also eliminates bureaucracy in the sense that it is more flexible and has easy communication between its citizens for faster and more efficient responses. Therefore, many experts are excited about the establishment of this new city. Key optimism comes from Neom’s health-focused ethics, whereby the city plans on being car-free, with a reduction in both air and noise pollution, as well as being environmentally abundant.

Mia Heaphy