Podcast: The case for ... cities that aren't dystopian surveillance states

For my latest podcast, I read my Guardian Cities column, "The case for ... cities that aren't dystopian surveillance states," which was the last piece ever commissioned for the section. Read the rest

Imagining a "smart city" that treats you as a sensor, not a thing to be sensed

The editors of Guardian Cities (previously) saw my Toronto Life blurb about how a "smart city" could be focused on enabling its residents, rather than tracking and manipulating them, and asked me to write a longer piece on the theme: The case for ... cities where you're the sensor, not the thing being sensed is the result. Read the rest

Toronto business and government signal full support for Sidewalk Labs' dominance of the city and beyond

Dan Doctoroff and Stephen Diamond could hardly suppress their affection for each other at their January 13 joint luncheon address hosted by the Toronto Region Board of Trade. Read the rest

Public treated to obfuscation at Waterfront Toronto meeting on negotiations with Google sister company over surveillance district

[Rosemary Frei is an independent journalist who broke the story that Google's Sidewalk Labs had quietly sewn up the rights to turn most of Toronto's lakeshore into a surveilling "smart city" (Google/Sidewalk lied about this at first, were cornered, admitted it, and rolled back the plan). Now she's back with a report on last night's "Public Update on Quayside" meeting, where any hope anyone nursed that Google would be pursuing humane urbanism, rather than surveillance and extraction, were firmly dashed. -Cory]

At Waterfront Toronto’s first meeting for the public after its board of directors voted Oct. 31 to continue negotiating with Sidewalk Labs on the parameters of a 12-acre surveillance district, officials from the public agency made it clear they’re already wedded to the Google sister company.

The hundreds of attendees of last night’s ‘Public Update on Quayside’ were each given a package that included a copy of an Oct. 29 letter from Waterfront Toronto President and CEO George Zegarac to Sidewalk Labs’s Chief Development Officer Josh Sirefman. Zegarac lays out in the letter how the two bodies will work closely together -- with Waterfront Toronto taking the lead in on such things as negotiations with all three levels of government – to "develop an ‘Innovation Plan’ to advance and achieve Waterfront Toronto’s priority outcomes." Based on this newly arrived at ‘realignment of Master Innovation and Development Plan threshold issues,’ Waterfront Toronto’s final decision on whether to proceed with the plan will be taken by its board by March 31, 2020. Read the rest

Sidewalk Labs' quiet plan for Canada's banks to manage a national digital ID for health care and housing

[I'm delighted to welcome Lilian Radovac back for another excellent piece on the digital surveillance shenanigans in Canada, which aren't always as showy as their stateside counterparts, but are every bit as worrying. In this piece, Radovac reveals the buried plan for a finance-sector managed, all-surveilling National ID card buried in the latest massive wedge of largely unread documents from Google spin-out Sidewalk Labs (previously) that is building a controversial, privatised city-within-a-city in Toronto -Cory]

In Sidewalk Toronto news, Sidewalk Labs has finally released its Master Innovation and Development Plan Digital Innovation Appendix. As with the 1,524 page MIDP before it, there's a lot to read in the DIA but a few excerpts already stand out.

Toronto approves Google's surveillance city, despite leaks revealing Orwellian plans

Yesterday, Waterfront Toronto unanimously approved the continuation of Sidewalk Labs's plans for "Quayside," a privatised, surveillance-oriented "smart city" that has been mired in controversy since its earliest days, including secret bullying campaigns, mass resignations of privacy advisors, lies that drastically understated the scope of the project, civil liberties lawsuits, and denunciations by the indigenous elders who were consulted on the project. Read the rest

Leaked document reveals that Sidewalk Labs' Toronto plans for private taxation, private roads, charter schools, corporate cops and judges, and punishment for people who choose privacy

Tomorrow, Toronto's City Council will hold a key vote on Sidewalk Labs's plan to privatize much of the city's lakeshore in the name of creating a "smart city" owned by Google's parent company, Alphabet. Read the rest

Critical essays (including mine) discuss Toronto's plan to let Google build a surveillance-based "smart city" along its waterfront

Sidewalk Labs is Google's sister company that sells "smart city" technology; its showcase partner is Toronto, my hometown, where it has made a creepy shitshow out of its freshman outing, from the mass resignations of its privacy advisors to the underhanded way it snuck in the right to take over most of the lakeshore without further consultations (something the company straight up lied about after they were outed). Unsurprisingly, the city, the province, the country, and the company are all being sued over the plan. Read the rest

Mozilla's Internet Health Report: discriminatory AI, surveilling smart cities, ad-tech

Every year, the Mozilla Foundation releases a massive "Internet Health Report" summarizing the ways in which the internet is being used to both support and subvert human thriving; though these reports cover a wide range of topics, every year the foundation chooses a small number of themes to focus on. This year, they are Let's Ask More of AI; The Power of Cities and Rethinking Digital Ads. Read the rest

Canadian Civil Liberties Association sues Toronto, Ontario, and Canada over the plan for a Google Sidewalk Labs "smart city" in Toronto

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. Read the rest

IBM supplied surveillance gear to Davao while Duterte was mayor and cheering on the city's police-linked death-squads

During the long years when Philippines strongman Rodrigo Duterte (previously) was mayor of Davao (circumventing term limits by periodically allowing his daughter to run for mayor and serving as her vice-mayor) the city was terrorized by death-squads who enjoyed total impunity as they assassinated police suspects and Duterte's political opponents, while Duterte cheered them on (Duterte has boasted about his participation in extrajudicial killings during this period, but has also denied participation in the death squads). Read the rest

Tim Maughan's Infinite Detail: a debut sf novel about counterculture, resistance, and the post-internet apocalypse

Tim Maughan has long been one of the most promising up-and-coming, avante garde UK science fiction writers, whose post-cyberpunk short fiction mixed radical politics with a love of graffiti and a postmodern filmmaker's eye: now, with his debut novel Infinite Detail, Maughan shows that he has what it takes to work at longer lengths, and can sustain a first-rate adventure story that grabs and never lets go, without sacrificing the political and technological insights that give his work depth that will stay with you long after the book is done. Read the rest

Sorting the spin from the facts: how big can the surveilling city that Sidewalk Labs plans for Toronto get?

Cory published a writeup of my research showing Google offshoot Sidewalk Labs’ plan to build a surveilling city in Toronto involves a much, much larger chunk of land than publicly disclosed (in fact about 2,600 acres of prime Toronto waterfront!). It flushed out a response from the high-priced US PR firm Berlin Rosen, apparently acting on behalf of Sidewalk Labs: Read the rest

Rolling robots 3D print a bridge, inching their way along the span as they lay it

The Smarter Bridge is a project led by Mix3d, which makes robotic 3D printers that can sinter stainless steel structures and inch their way along the surfaces as they are completed. Read the rest

Trailer for Elevation, a film on how drones will change cities

Dezeen interview leading architects and designers around the world for Elevation, a new documentary on how drones will change cities. Speculative architect Liam Young points out, "Now that drones are in the hands of every person in the street, they're potentially as disruptive as the internet." Read the rest

London demonstrates the stupid, janky future of Smart Cities

Bruce Sterling's scathing editorial in The Atlantic on the future of "Smart Cities" uses London's many smart city initiatives as a kind of measuring stick for the janky and dysfunctional future of civic automation: a city that throws great smart city conferences while its actual infrastructure is a mess of "empty skyscrapers, creepy CCTV videocams, and sewers plugged with animal fat" that require decades of planning an attention to cope with -- significantly beyond the attention spans of any of the tech giants vying to be the smart city providers of the future. Read the rest

An important, lyrical, critical book about the future of "Smart Cities"

Adam Greenfield's new book Radical Technologies: The Design of Everyday Life (previously) has scored an outstanding review from The Guardian's Steven Poole, who calls it "a landmark primer and spur to more informed and effective opposition" to "the pitiless libertarianism towards which all [Smart Cities] developments seem to lean." Read the rest

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