City of Toronto deal with Sidewalk Labs sparks public protests
Sidewalk Labs, a subsidiary of Alphabet (Google's owner), has signed a deal with the Canadian city of Toronto to redevelop the brownfield Quayside waterfront district and turn it into a technology hub. The deal raises three sets of issues. First (The Guardian) is the essential privatisation of public space by granting Sidewalk Labs over the technology used and the data collected. Second (The Civicist), are the privacy implications, discussed in a public forum, of allowing Sidewalk Labs to leverage data gathered in the public realm to meet public-service goals such as improving traffic flow, reducing emissions, and enabling autonomous vehicles. Sidewalk Labs has promoted its planned privacy pledge, led by Canadian privacy advocate Ann Cavoukian. Even so, specifics about how the project will use data are scarce. Third (The Toronto Star) are concerns about the future of organisational responsiveness, transparency, and accountability if Sidewalk Labs is allowed to build the pervasive, sensor-driven "digital layer" that is intended to capture, analyse, and display the activities, choices, and interpersonal interactions in fine detail of the individuals who use the space.