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Google’s Smart City Plan Upsets Toronto Residents

Sidewalk Labs told the BBC it looked forward to “continuing to work with Torontonians to get this right”, adding it was “strongly committed to protection and privacy” of urban data

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FILE - A woman walks past the logo for Google at the China International Import Expo in Shanghai, Nov. 5, 2018. VOA

Google-affiliate Sidewalk Labs’s plan to build an Internet-based smart city in Toronto has sparked fear and anxiety among residents, the media reported.

Sidewalk Labs’ plan of collecting data through sensors placed all around the harbourside development unsettled some, the BBC reported on Saturday.

The company acquired land in the Canadian city and promised a radical mix of offices, retail and makerspaces with a green agenda, robots and underground waste disposal.

According to a group of citizens called Block Sidewalk, people expressed their unhappiness over the project, announced a couple of years back, at a meeting organised by it.

Few raised questions about lack of transparency in the way Toronto Waterfront had awarded the contract to Sidewalk Labs, others expressed doubt if the firm could deliver such an ambitious project. Some had concerns about the company’s long-term plan about the area.

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A man walks past a Google sign outside with a span of the Bay Bridge at rear in San Francisco, May 1, 2019. VOA

“We have not been talking about the fact that it’s normalising massive data collection or even asking whether anyone wants this thing at all. No one here has asked for a sensor-laden neighbourhood,” organiser of the meeting Bianca Wylie told the BBC.

“Our waterfront must be developed for the benefit of citizens of Toronto, not the shareholders of a Google-affiliate,” Wylie said.

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Sidewalk Labs told the BBC it looked forward to “continuing to work with Torontonians to get this right”, adding it was “strongly committed to protection and privacy” of urban data.

A report published in the Toronto Star suggested that Sidewalk Labs wanted to build a much bigger neighbourhood at Quayside and provide new transport for it, a claim that has not been disputed by the Google affiliate. (IANS)

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Tech Giant Google Decides to Invest $1 Billion in Housing Across Bay Area

Google last week announced a $6 million grant to support 4-H, the largest youth development organisation in the US

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FILE - A woman walks past the logo for Google at the China International Import Expo in Shanghai, Nov. 5, 2018. VOA

After announcing a fresh investment of $600 million in expanding its data centre in Oklahoma, Google has now decided to invest $1 billion for 20,000 homes in the Bay Area in San Francisco.

“Today we’re announcing an additional $1 billion investment in housing across the Bay Area. Over the next 10 years, we’ll repurpose at least $750 million of Google’s land, most of which is currently zoned for office or commercial space, as residential housing,” Google Chief Executive Officer Sundar Pichai wrote in a blog-post on Tuesday.

The project is aimed at supporting the development of at least 15,000 new homes at all income levels in the Bay Area, including housing options for middle and low-income families.

“We’ll establish a $250 million investment fund so that we can provide incentives to enable developers to build at least 5,000 affordable housing units across the market,” Pichai said.

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FILE – The Google logo is seen at a start-up campus in Paris, France, Feb. 15, 2018. VOA

In addition to the increased supply of affordable housing, the search engine giant has also announced to give $50 million in grants through Google.org to nonprofits focused on the issues of homelessness and displacement.

“This builds on the $18 million in grants we’ve given to help address homelessness over the last five years, including $3 million we gave to the newly opened SF Navigation Center and $1.5 million to affordable housing for low income veterans and households in Mountain View,” Pichai added.

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Earlier this week, as part of its plan to invest $13 billion in building new data centres and offices in over a dozen states in the US this year, the company invested $600 million in Pryor, Oklahoma.

To boost computer science education in the US, Google last week announced a $6 million grant to support 4-H, the largest youth development organisation in the US. (IANS)