10 October 2018

Sidewalk Toronto has only one beneficiary, and it is not Toronto

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Jim Balsillie, former chairman and co-CEO of Research In Motion, doesn’t mince his words in discussing the new Google-affiliated waterfront development Sidewalk Toronto:

What happens with Toronto’s waterfront infrastructure will have profound and permanent impacts on the digital rights and prosperity of all Canadians because IP and data – our century’s most valuable extractive resources – spread seamlessly. Data has already been used as a potent tool to manipulate individuals, social relationships and autonomy. Any data collected can be reprocessed and analysed in new ways in the future that are unanticipated at the time of collection and this has major implications for our privacy, prosperity, freedom and democracy.

From the start, this project should have been debated publicly and involved experts in IP and data. Instead, Waterfront Toronto continues to weaponize ambiguity while making irreversible decisions that will have major negative effects on all Canadians. Is this how we want our cities and the future of our country managed?

Balsillie even refers to the National Research Council’s recent warning to the Canadian federal government that Canada was at risk of becoming a nation of “data cows,” leaking our most valuable national resource to companies such as Amazon, Google and others.

And then there is the icing-on-the-cake conclusion:

Sidewalk Toronto is not a smart city. It is a colonizing experiment in surveillance capitalism attempting to bulldoze important urban, civic and political issues. Of all the misguided innovation strategies Canada has launched over the past three decades, this purported smart city is not only the dumbest but also the most dangerous.

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