A project undertaken by Google-affiliate, Sidewalk Labs in 2017 to develop a smart city around Toronto quayside with focus on automation and latest technology is now being questioned by its residents.
Dan Doctoroff, former New York mayor heading the development team comprising government officials and digital professionals guaranteed a revolutionary combination which would provide green commercial spaces, automation in waste disposal and a lot of happiness to the residents.
However, sensors put up at several points around the harbor side for collecting data by the company had many worried. A section of the residents formed a group named ‘Block Sidewalk’ to demand more transparency from the developers who they felt had something more in their mind other than just uplifting the 12 acre site acquired from Toronto Waterfront.
As per leaked documents obtained by them, Sidewalk Labs aimed to develop a larger region providing new transport facilities too. Against their investment they needed a slice of the development fees, property taxes and enhanced values of the urban land which otherwise would be payable to the city authorities. Sidewalk Labs had nothing to dispute on this score.
This had the residents worried about the business model Sidewalk Labs intended to use for the area, in reality.
Organizer of the group, Bianca Wylie wanted the development to benefit Toronto residents and not Sidewalk Labs shareholders. Another opposition to the project came from the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and they have sued the government at three levels. Director, Brenda McPhail felt that it was wrongful for privacy policies to be designed by Google for governing urban areas.
Sidewalk Labs, however, disagreed. But the company’s privacy adviser resigned citing the company’s basis for developing privacy policies as the reason. The company has therefore delayed on the submission of their final plan for the area’s redevelopment.
An expert in this context stated that involving a private firm into public projects could lead to successful work but there are many chances of the firm going overboard which gives rise to problematic issues.