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Google Proposes Its First Urban Development Project

The current agreement leaves ownership of data issues for later shows that it wasn't properly drafted and means patents derived from the data will default to Google.

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A Google logo is displayed at the entrance to the internet based company's offices in Toronto. VOA

Heated streets will melt ice and snow on contact. Sensors will monitor traffic and protect pedestrians. Driverless shuttles will carry people to their doors.

A unit of Google’s parent company Alphabet is proposing to turn a rundown part of Toronto’s waterfront into what may be the most wired community in history — to “fundamentally refine what urban life can be.”

Sidewalk Labs has partnered with a government agency known as Waterfront Toronto with plans to erect mid-rise apartments, offices, shops and a school on a 12-acre (4.9-hectare) site — a first step toward what it hopes will eventually be a 800-acre (325-hectare) development.

High-level interest is clear: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Alphabet’s then-Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt appeared together to announce the plan in October.

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A Google logo is seen at the company’s headquarters in Mountain View, California, VOA

But some Canadians are rethinking the privacy implications of giving one of the most data-hungry companies on the planet the means to wire up everything from street lights to pavement. And some want the public to get a cut of the revenue from products developed using Canada’s largest city as an urban laboratory.

“The Waterfront Toronto executives and board are too dumb to realize they are getting played,” said former BlackBerry chief executive Jim Balsillie, a smartphone pioneer considered a national hero.

Complaints about the proposed development prompted Waterfront Toronto to re-do the agreement to ensure a greater role for the official agency, which represents city, provincial and federal governments.

So far the project is still in the embryonic stage. After consultations, the developers plan to present a formal master plan early next year.

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Trump Also Expands Google Criticism to Include Facebook, Twitter. VOA

Dan Doctoroff, the CEO of Sidewalk Labs, envisions features like pavement that lights up to warn pedestrians of approaching streetcars. Flexible heated enclosures — described as “raincoats” for buildings — will be deployed based on weather data during Toronto’s bitter winters. Robotic waste-sorting systems will detect when a garbage bin is full and remove it before raccoons descend.

“Those are great uses of data that can improve the quality of life of people,” he said. “That’s what we want to do.”

Sidewalk Labs promotional materials promise “a place that’s enhanced by digital technology and data, without giving up the privacy and security that everyone deserves.”

Doctoroff said the company isn’t looking to monetize people’s personal information in the way that Google does now with search information. He said the plan is to invent so-far-undefined products and services that Sidewalk Labs can market elsewhere.

“People automatically assume because of our relationship to Alphabet and Google that they will be treated one way or another. We have never said anything” about the data issue, he said. “To be honest people should give us some time. Be patient.”

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Google has collaborated with Getty images. Wikimedia Commons

But that wasn’t good enough for Julie Di Lorenzo, a prominent Toronto developer who resigned from the Waterfront Toronto board over the project. Di Lorenzo said data and what Google wants to do with it should be front and center in the discussions. She also believes the government agency has given the Google affiliate too much power over how the project develops.

“How can [Waterfront Toronto], a corporation established by three levels of democratically elected government, have shared values with a limited, for-profit company whose premise is embedded data collection?” Di Lorenzo asked.

Di Lorenzo asks who will own the autonomous vehicles. “Is the municipality maintaining the fleet or forcing you to share your vehicle?” She also asks if people who don’t want their data collected will be allowed to live there.

The concerns have intensified following a series of privacy scandals at Facebook and Google. A recent Associated Press investigation found that many Google services on iPhones and Android devices store location-tracking data even if you use privacy settings that are supposed to turn them off.

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The Alexa Echo Dot devices include the official Saint Louis University logo and are equipped with specific skills to provide information on local events and campus life. VOA

“It gives all of us pause,” Waterfront board chair Helen Burstyn acknowledged.

Bianca Wylie, an advocate of open government, said it remains deeply troubling that Sidewalk Labs still hasn’t said who will own data produced by the project or how it will be monetized. Google is here to make money, she said, and Canadians should benefit from any data or products developed from it.

“We are not here to be someone’s research and development lab,” she said, “to be a loss leader for products they want to sell globally.”

Ottawa patent lawyer Natalie Raffoul said the fact that the current agreement leaves ownership of data issues for later shows that it wasn’t properly drafted and means patents derived from the data will default to Google.

“We just can’t be too trusting of corporations,” she said.

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An empty chair reserved for Google’s parent Alphabet, which refused to send its top executive, is seen as Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg accompanied by Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on ‘Foreign Influence Operations and Their Use of Social Media Platforms’ on Capitol Hill. VOA

But Burstyn, the Waterfront Toronto chair, said the upcoming master plan will address data concerns. The agency wants to make Toronto a global hub of a rising new industry, she said.

“Everybody gets worried about the digital and technology aspects that might run amok,” she said. “I don’t worry about that as much as I see the opportunities for developing a really interesting, innovative community.”

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Adam Vaughan, the federal lawmaker whose district includes the development, said debate about big data and urban infrastructure is coming to cities across the world and he would rather have Toronto at the forefront of discussion.

“Google is ahead of governments globally and locally. That’s a cause for concern but it’s also an opportunity,” Vaughan said. (VOA)

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86% Workers Worldwide Wish to Acquire New Skills from Employers: Survey

A survey suggests that 86% workers globally demand new skills training from their employers

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About 86 per cent of office workers globally wish their employer offered opportunities or training to acquire new skills. Pixabay

About 86 per cent of office workers around the world wish their employer offered opportunities to acquire new skills, said a survey on Monday.

Nearly 83 per cent respondents said they wish their employer gave them more opportunities to enhance their current skills, said the survey by US-based enterprise robotic process automation (RPA) software company UiPath.

The desire for upskilling and reskilling opportunities stems from fear of job loss and decreased productivity due to outdated skills, the results showed.

The survey of 4,500 office workers across India, Germany, the US, the UK, France and Singapore, conducted in February and March this year, uncovered that over 90 per cent of office workers believe their employers should be more willing to invest in digital and technology skills training for their employees.

“Now more than ever, digital skillsets are necessary. Employers need to provide their employees with new training initiatives so they can best leverage technology like automation so they’re more productive and satisfied in their careers,” Tom Clancy, Senior Vice President, UiPath Learning, said in a statement.

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According to the survey, nearly 83 per cent workers said they wish their employer gave them more opportunities to enhance their current skills. Pixabay

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“Employers should offer digital training as part of career development initiatives as it is proven to enhance retention and boost business productivity.”

A full third of office workers globally fear their current roles will advance past their current skills, and 25 per cent worry about losing their job due to automation, said the survey. (IANS)

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Stadia Pro Members to Get Six Bonus Games in June, Reveals Google

The game is supposed to be launched on June 16

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Google reveals that Stadia Pro members will get 6 new free games in June. Pixabay

Google has revealed that Stadia Pro members will get six bonus games in June, or twice as many as usual.

Six new games for free with Stadia Pro are Get Packed, Little Nightmares, Power Rangers: Battle for the Grid, SUPERHOT, Panzer Dragoon Remake, and The Elder Scrolls Online,

The game will be launched on June 16 and will be available on the subscription-based game service Stadia immediately, Google said on Friday.

Stadia also brought some big updates to users who use the service via Google’s Chrome browser. The platform added support for wireless Stadia Controller play and 1440p resolution — exclusively for Stadia Pro subscribers.

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The game will be available on the subscription-based game service Stadia immediately, Google said. (Representative Image). Pixabay

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The company also announced 12 existing games that are still available to add to Stadia Pro collection.

Earlier, Google revealed that it will add more than 120 games to its subscription-based game service this year. (IANS)

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Scam Spotter: Google Launches Programme to Stop Scammers Exploiting Covid-19

Google has launched a new programme to stop COVID-19 scammers

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Google launches a new programme to spot stop Covid-19 scammers. Pixabay

Google on Thursday launched a new programme called Scam Spotter to spot and stop scammers who are exploiting the Covid-19 pandemic with alarming speed, taking advantage of fear and uncertainty.

The programme simplifies expert advice with three rules when you receive a suspicious phone call or message to figure out if it’s a scam.

The three rules are: “Slow it down, spot check and stop! Don’t send.”

According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), people reported $1.9 billion lost to scams in 2019.

Every minute, more than $3,600 disappeared from wallets and bank accounts in response to made-up stories of urgently overdue tax payments, bogus contest winnings, or a smooth-talking online suitor who suddenly needs some gift cards.

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According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), people reported $1.9 billion lost to scams in 2019. Pixabay

“A high-pressure phone call or exciting message can overcome many people’s judgment, especially if they are caught at a vulnerable moment,” said Google.

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While people ages 25-40 are most likely to be scammed, research shows it’s seniors who stand to lose the most, with their median losses more than double the average.

The company also unveiled a new website ScamSpotter.org.

“If we learn how to spot the bad actors, we can spend our time focusing on those moments that matter,” said the company. (IANS)