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.

Scariest Halloween decoration ever: measles viruses

Toronto's Andrea Addario lives next to one of the world's greatest Halloween haunters. As she tweeted, he exhibits "extreme genius" every year, and this year is no exception: he's studded his tree with giant measles viruses made out of pumpkins and carrots, along with a coffin-shaped sign reading "VACCINATE YOUR KIDS." (Thanks, Allen!) 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

My favorite junk auctioneer is selling online now

Mark Taaffe is a Toronto institution, whose Fort York Auctions were the best junk auctions I've ever seen (they inspired my short story Craphound, which was the first story I ever sold to a professional market); Mark has moved online and is now selling his finds through a social media account. Though these listings lack his charming patter and colourful auctioneering, his eye is as good as ever and his prices are still amazeballs. (Thanks, Paul Mercer!) Read the rest

Indigenous elder on Sidewalk Labs's Toronto consultation: "like being given blankets and gun powder and whisky to trade for our participation"

Sidewalk Labs (previously) is a "smart city" company that was spun out of Google, though it remains owned by Alphabet, Google's parent company; Sidewalk Labs's first major outing is a planned "experimental city" on Toronto's lakeshore, and it's been a disaster, from the bullying it used to get the project's initial approval to being outed for sneaking a massive expansion into the agreement and then lying about it, to mass resignations by its privacy advisors, who denounced the project as a corporate surveillance city whose "privacy protections" were mere figleafs for unfettered, nonconsensual collection and exploitation of residents' data. Read the rest

Profiles in criminal Canadian bumblefuckery: Canadaland on the Ford Family

Dynasties is the latest special series from Canadaland Commons, a podcast that deeply investigates the sleazy, dysfunctional wealthy dynasties that dominate Canadian politics, media and business. Read the rest

CN Tower's management company claims that any picture of the landmark building is a trademark violation

The CN Tower is a giant radio antenna and tourist attraction on Toronto's lakeshore; it's an iconic part of the city's skyline, and has been since it was built at taxpayer expense; today, it's owned by a Crown Corporation that insists that any reproduction of the Tower is a trademark violation. Read the rest

Come see me in Toronto and Maine!

I'm in the midst of couple of weeks' worth of lectures, public events and teaching, and you can catch me in Toronto (for Seeding Utopias and Resisting Dystopias and 6 Degrees); Newry, ME (Maine Library Association) and Portland, ME (in conversation with James Patrick Kelly). 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

Tour of the Universe was the best ride this 1980s kid ever took

The 1980s were a pretty sweet time to be a lower-middle class kid in Ontario. Marineland (which I now know was a terrible place for the whales, dolphin and deer they held captive there) and African Lion Safari were only a few hours away, for most of us. Canada's Wonderland, our first major theme park, opened its gates in 1981 and there were miniature golf courses, freaking everywhere. Not a one of them held my Star Wars-focused attention like Tour of the Universe did.

Housed in the basement of the CN Tower, Tour of the Universe was a space flight simulation ride set in the far-flung year of 2019. Upon entering Spaceport Toronto, passengers would be issued a round-trip ticket to Jupiter before passing through security, intergalactic customs and being subjected to a medical—inoculation against the Ganymede Rash and Alien Dropsy were a must. Upon entering your shuttle to Jupiter and strapping in, you'd be subjected to a quick, immersive space adventure: the 'trip' took place on a large screen inside of the cabin built out of the bones of a 747 flight simulator that was moved around on hydraulics in time to the action on the forward display. It was the first ride of its kind, anywhere in the world. American kids would have to wait a number of years for a similar experience when Disneyland picked it up and retooled it as Star Tour.

Image via YouTube Read the rest

Uber drivers in Toronto unionizing to take on The Man

Working for a ride-sharing company like Uber or Lyft can be a tough gig that offers low pay, long hours that keep drivers on there road and away from the people they love and, at times, wheeling under dangerous working conditions. In some parts of the world, pissed off drivers have walked off the job and protested their crappy working conditions and demanded--and I know this is crazy--a living wage. Up here in Canada, we tend to do things with a little more of a socialist flare.

From Gizmodo:

First announced on Monday, Uber drivers based in Toronto expressed their intention to join the United Food and Commercial Workers, a 250,000-strong trade union which operates in both Canada and the U.S. The actual number of drivers who had signed cards was not released, but during a press conference this afternoon, UFCW Canada staffer Pablo Godoy claimed their support had hit the “high hundreds” and were growing rapidly.

The move comes at a time when Toronto's city counsel is attempting to sort out a balance between cab companies and the ride share operations that have been drinking their milkshakes. With this in mind, there couldn't be a better time for Uber drivers to invest in the power of a union. That said, there's still a number of legal issues to be ironed out before Toronto's Uber drivers are rubber stamped as a bona fide part of the union and afforded the protections that membership in UFCW provides.

Given the amount of trouble that Uber has had in recent years in locales like New York where the city has implemented strict living wage laws for ride share drivers and in Cancun, where they were forced to suspend operations to keep their people safe from pissed off taxi and colectivo drivers, its possible that the company might just consider not giving it's Toronto employees a tough time, at least in the short term: even giant, plundering corporations need a breather from all the bullshit they generate, every now and again. Read the rest

Remembering Velma Demerson: Grand soul, feminist, human rights advocate and writer

[Velma Demerson was jailed in 1939 and by the Ontario government for the "crime" of having a Chinese boyfriend; sixty years later, she began an ultimately successful legal challenge seeking reparations; I'm pleased to present this remembrance for Demerson by Harry Kopyto, the campaigning human rights lawyer, who served as one of her advisors -Cory]

On Monday May 13, 2019, Athena Mary Lakes, better known as Velma Demerson, died from old age in a Vancouver hospital at the age of 98. She is best known for her successful legal battle culminating in 2002 against the Ontario Government for incarcerating her in Toronto in 1939 for almost a year. The reason for her incarceration? She was found morally “incorrigible” under the Female Refuges Act for living with a Chinese man, Harry Yip, whom she married after her release. Their son, who was born while she was in jail, was taken away from her until after her release. Read the rest

To do in Toronto: the Retro Futures exhibit at Metro Reference Library

Toronto's Metro Reference Library is hosting a Retro Futures exhibition until July 28, filled with exhibits from the collection of the Merril Collection (previously), the largest science fiction reference collection in any public library in the world. Read the rest

Halifax! I'm speaking at Atlseccon on April 24 (then Toronto, Ottawa, Berlin and Houston!)

I'm coming to Halifax to give the closing keynote on day one of Atlseccon on April 24th: it's only my second-ever visit to the city and the first time I've given a talk there, so I really hope you can make it! Read the rest

Toronto! I'm at the Metro Reference Library tonight at 7PM with my new book RADICALIZED! Next up: Chicago, San Francisco, Portland/Ft Vancouver...

We had a hell of an event last night at The Strand in NYC, and I'm about to head to the airport for my flight to Toronto for tonight's event at the Metro Reference Library, hosted by the Globe & Mail's Barry Hertz; then it's Chicago's C2E2 festival and then to Berkeley for an event with the writer and photographer Richard Kadrey, and then the Revolutionary Reads program at Fort Vancouver's Clark College (just outside of Portland, OR); and then the tour takes me to Seattle and Anaheim! I hope you'll come out and say hi! (Image: Vlado Vince) Read the rest

NYC! I'm coming to The Strand tonight at 7PM with my new book RADICALIZED! Next up: Toronto, Chicago, San Francisco...

Thanks to everyone who came to last night's launch event at San Diego's Mysterious Galaxy! The next stop on my tour is an event at 7PM at The Strand in NYC where I'll be appearing with the award-winning investigative journalist Julia Angwin, who is pinch-hitting for Anand Giridharadas, who has had a family emergency. Read the rest

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