False: WEF's smart cities initiative will track and limit people's daily activities and spending

By: Pallavi Sethi
March 14 2023

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False: WEF's smart cities initiative will track and limit people's daily activities and spending


The Verdict False

Smart cities aim to improve a city's infrastructure and the quality of life for its residents.

Claim ID 3b90943c


A Facebook reel with over 18,400 likes and 32,000 shares makes several unsubstantiated claims about the smart cities initiative led by the World Economic Forum (WEF). The video asserts that under the smart cities initiative, "all your money, shopping, travel, entertainment, daily activities, and carbon footprint will be tracked and monitored by your digital IDs." It further claims if people exceed "what they're allowed," they "could be denied access to daily activities." The video misrepresents sustainable initiatives and provides no evidence to support its claims. 

In Fact

The European Commission defines a "smart city" as a city that provides efficient services using "digital solutions for the benefit of its inhabitants and business." The website states that the term "means smarter urban transport networks, upgraded water supply and waste disposal facilities and more efficient ways to light and heat buildings." 

Cities worldwide are turning to internet of things (IoT) to "collect, share and analyse real-time data on urban environments." Speaking to WIRED, the IoT program head at techUK, Matthew Evans, defines IoT as devices connected to the internet that "talk to each other." Evans explains that using automated systems to integrate such devices can collect and examine information and "create an action." Cities use IoT to improve a city's conditions and its residents' lives. In Data-Smart City Solutions, housed at the Bloomberg Center for Cities at Harvard University, Laura Adler describes how Barcelona has reaped the benefits of its IoT investment. "These innovations yielded significant cost savings, improved the quality of life for residents, and made the city a center for the young IoT industry." The city implemented intervention programs in several areas, including transportation, water, and waste. Under the "digital bus stops" initiative, passengers at bus stops could turn to bus status updates, free WiFi, charging stations, and apps that could help people understand the city better. 

However, the technology also raises concerns about privacy and surveillance. In 2020, the World Economic Forum launched the G20 Global Smart Cities Alliance to ensure the "responsible and ethical use of smart city technologies." The alliance works with smart city experts, policymakers, private sectors, and civil societies to "co-design, pilot and scale up" policy initiatives that "help cities responsibly implement IoT technologies." 

The video also promotes the 15-minute cities conspiracy theory and calls a smart city a "confinement community" where people will need permits to travel beyond a "15-minute travel limit." Logically has debunked such claims in the past. "The WEF has no agenda pushing a project that would not allow people to travel, confine them in a certain area and fine them if they leave it," Yann Zopf, WEF's Head of Media, told Logically. 


Far from limiting people's daily activities, smart cities aim to improve urban infrastructure and citizen welfare. There's no evidence that smart city initiatives will track and limit people's daily activities or spending. Therefore we have marked this claim as false.

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