Sidewalk Labs is the division of Alphabet/Google that builds "smart city" technology; their most ambitious project to date is a massive privatised city-within-a-city planned for Toronto's lakeshore — a project that received secretly approval to be much larger than was announced, a fact that Sidewalk lied about.
Now, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association has filed suit against all three levels of government — the city, the province and the country — over the Toronto Sidewalk Labs project, seeking a judgment that the project will violate Canadians' privacy rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Sidewalk Labs argues that the privacy issues are being taken care of through its contract with Waterfront Toronto, a body chartered by the national, provincial and municipal governments. CCLA says that Waterfront Toronto does not have the authority to sign away peoples' privacy rights.
Waterfront Toronto is certainly a toothless watchdog, and a string of high-profile resignations from its advisory board have highlighted the frustration that public-minded advocates feel with the organisation's unwillingness to take the public interest seriously.
People interested in fighting the Sidewalk Labs project can follow #BlockSidewalk, which is organising a series of community meetings and other events to put the brakes on the project.
"You can argue that you consent when you put Alexa in your home or connect your electronics to your online accounts," Michael Bryant, executive director of the CCLA, told me over the phone. "It's another thing to say you consent when you walk from one block in Toronto to the next."
Canada Is Getting Sued Over Sidewalk Labs' 'Smart City' In Toronto [Jordan Pearson/Motherboard]