Sidewalk Labs’ Toronto Project Stirs up Privacy Debate

When Sidewalk Labs hosted a public forum in Toronto last November to gather feedback on its plan to build a data-driven innovation hub on a mostly derelict stretch of industrial waterfront, several participants posed tough questions about how the company, a subsidiary of Alphabet/Google, would address privacy issues—questions that have yet to be answered some three months later.

The company, founded by former Bloomberg CEO and New York City deputy mayor Dan Doctoroff, launched its pitch in mid-October amidst an international media blitz that included promotional appearances by Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau and former Google chairman Eric Schmidt. In particular, Sidewalk proposed to develop a green, affordable, and innovation-driven mixed-use waterfront community to be built using emerging data, mapping, and network technologies, such as the deployment of public data-gathering sensors and automated shuttle buses that would serve the area instead of private vehicles. Sidewalk also pledged to invest US$50 million in pilot projects in Toronto as they negotiate a final development agreement with local agencies over the coming year.

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Victoria Krisman
Victoria Krisman is Interactive Media Specialist and Communications Manager for the Intelligent Community Forum.
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