- Sidewalk Labs pledged Friday not to sell personal data it collects at its Quayside project in Toronto or use it for advertising and said it would ensure every use of technology would be of "beneficial purpose."
- In its Digital Innovation Appendix, submitted to Waterfront Toronto, the Alphabet-backed venture says governmental entities will "take the lead" on data management and governance. And while the company has plans for 18 wider digital services like waste management, intelligent crosswalks and energy and package delivery, it will only collect data from those when necessary and will purchase 75% of the required technology from existing vendors. Some services will require residents to submit personal information, but Sidewalk Labs said it will minimize such collection.
- In a Medium post, Sidewalk Labs' digital innovation lead Jacqueline Lu and director of urban design and digital innovation Jesse Shapins said the company "agrees to work with Waterfront Toronto and its government stakeholders in good faith to ensure each digitally-enabled solution will not impede (and where feasible, will foster) accessibility in Quayside."
After a tumultuous period for Sidewalk Labs, which included criticism of its initial plan as being "frustratingly abstract" and the resignation of some advisors over privacy concerns, this submission is the latest step on the path to a wider agreement with Toronto's governmental bodies.
Earlier this month, Waterfront Toronto and Sidewalk Labs announced they had resolved many of their differences, allowing the project to advance to a formal evaluation, although Waterfront Toronto Board Chair Stephen Diamond stressed that it is still "not a done deal." The Digital Innovation Appendix formalizes a lot of what had been agreed between the two entities.
But while this plan will now proceed to a formal evaluation and public comment period, critics still are unconvinced by the promises being made by Google parent company Alphabet.
Lilian Radovac, an assistant professor at the Institute of Communication, Culture, Information and Technology at the University of Toronto and the director of the Alternative Toronto digital archive project, slammed the plan for a digital ID card, which the company pledges will provide "interoperable access to public and private services through a unified delivery mechanism."
That is somewhat similar to the plan in New York City to add banking services to ID cards as a way of making life more convenient, but Radovac said in a blog post that if it is used in areas like healthcare, which is public in Canada, it could mean a "private sector incursion into public service administration."
As this plan moves into the formal evaluation and public comment phase, there will be plenty of things to discuss ahead of the review’s expected completion on March 31, 2020. And while there is a chance Waterfront Toronto rejects the proposal, Sidewalk Labs hopes this latest release assuages as many fears as possible.