Mixed support for Sidewalk Labs project in Toronto

A new poll shows that just over half of Toronto residents support the Sidewalk Labs smart city project in Toronto. The project has faced resistance in recent months for how it plans to collect and store data.

In late 2017, Sidewalk Labs, a division of Alphabet, announced ambitious plans to develop a nearly 5-hectare parcel of land in Toronto. The $50 million project called Quayside aims to demonstrate how Silicon Valley know-how can address chronic urban problems.

“We believe that by leveraging technology and combining it with really smart, people-centric urban planning, we could have really dramatic impacts on quality of life,” said Sidewalk Labs CEO Dan Doctoroff.

Even though the mixed-use development ticks off all the boxes related to sustainability and cutting-edge technology, public support for the project is mixed at best. According to a poll conducted between April 23 and May 11 just over half (54 per cent) of Toronto residents support the Quayside smart city project, while 17 per cent oppose it.

One reason for the measured support could be that only 56 per cent of city residents are even aware of the project. But another reason could the growing concerns over the project’s plans to embed sensors and cameras throughout the new waterfront neighbourhood. Critics warn that the project would “normalize mass surveillance” and threaten city residents’ right to privacy and even freedoms of expression and association.

Earlier this year, Toronto residents launched an online campaign called #BlockSidewalk, demanding that city officials halt the project and address the policy issues around collecting and storing data before proceeding any further.

Image credit: nextvoyage via Pixabay

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