Toronto's Quayside Will Be Plugged In, But the Risks for Residents Are Unclear

Technology will be part of everyday life in a new Toronto neighborhood, planned by Sidewalk Labs. But looking to the future is also raising a host of privacy concerns.
October 18, 2018, 11am PDT | Camille Fink
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A.H Mansouri

Alphabet’s Sidewalk Labs is teaming up with Waterfront Toronto on Quayside, a 12-acre planned neighborhood on Toronto’s eastern waterfront. The technology-enhanced development has generated concerns about data collection, privacy, and security.

“Critics have sounded alarm bells that so-called urban data — information collected about people in areas such as lobbies, streets, plazas, parks and open spaces near Sidewalk Labs’ mostly residential development — should be in the hands of government, rather than a large, profit-driven U.S. company,” reports Donovan Vincent.

Other criticism has focused on the monetization of data as an outcome of this project. To address these concerns, Sidewalk Labs recently released a Digital Governance Proposals document. “In the draft report, Sidewalk says the monetization of data will not be part of its business model, adding it has committed not to sell personal information or use it for advertising,” says Vincent. 

In addition, Sidewalk Labs says guidelines will be in place to protect individuals’ privacy and a data trust will manage collected data. “Sidewalk Labs said in order to protect privacy, any group or business entity proposing to collect or use urban data, including Sidewalk Labs itself, would first have to file a ‘responsible data impact assessment’ with the trust,” reports Vincent.

Still, say critics, the proposals are not adequate and Sidewalk Labs, as a vendor, should not be developing such guidelines. Sidewalk Labs will seek public input on the draft proposals as it moves forward with Waterfront Toronto to develop the Quayside master plan, due out early next year.

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Published on Monday, October 15, 2018 in The Star
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