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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

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.

google, online tracking
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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