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Alphabet Says It Won't Sell Personal Data It Collects In Smart City

Published: June 25, 2019
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Alphabet’s Sidewalk Labs is taking heat on its Quayside Smart City development in Toronto, but there is no reason to trust their CEO’s pledge to not sell private data collected on every citizen: The whole project is predicated on collecting and selling data. ⁃ TN Editor

Alphabet’s smart city unit Sidewalk Labs released its 1,500-plus page master plan to develop 153-acres of Toronto’s eastern waterfront district.

The proposal is designed to provide affordable housing, alleviate traffic, and fight climate change and inequality.

Sidewalk Labs CEO Dan Doctoroff pledged not to sell people’s personal data collected by the various services operating in the “smart city.”

The proposal says Sidewalk Toronto will add C$14.2 billion annually to Canada’s GDP, C$4.3 billion in tax revenue, and create 44,000 permanent jobs by 2040.

A high-tech smart city project proposed along Toronto’s waterfront by Alphabet unit Sidewalk Labs has pledged not to sell advertisers the personal data collected to serve residents and visitors, as part of a 1,500-page master plan released on Monday.

The proposal in Canada’s biggest city is designed to provide affordable housing, alleviate traffic and fight climate change and inequality. But privacy advocates have expressed concerns.

The C$3.9 billion development proposes features such as a thermal grid to lower power use, traffic signals that use data to prioritize pedestrians who need more time to cross roads and a self-financing light rail transit that connects the Greater Toronto Area to the waterfront, among other features.

Privacy activists have insisted that Sidewalk Labs must guarantee that personal data used to run the project remains anonymous.

CEO Dan Doctoroff said at a press conference on Monday that Sidewalk Labs will not disclose personal information to third parties without explicit consent and will not sell personal information.

Sidewalk’s proposed development encompasses 12 acres of land called the Quayside, and the River District, a 153-acre area that Sidewalk Labs plans tor develop.

The smart city project sparked controversy with concerns over sensors, which critics say will lead to excessive surveillance and unethical data collection.

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Google's parent company continues its attempts to sell Toronto on its controversial vision for a utopian city neighborhood.

The world’s most ambitious “smart city,” known as Quayside, in Toronto, has faced fierce public criticism since last fall, when the plans to build a neighborhood “from the internet up” were first revealed. Quayside represents a joint effort by the Canadian government agency Waterfront Toronto and Sidewalk Labs, which is owned by Google’s parent company Alphabet Inc., to develop 12 acres of the valuable waterfront just southeast of downtown Toronto.

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