Sidewalk Toronto at Quayside | ?m | ?s | Sidewalk | Snøhetta

UtakataNoAnnex

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How exactly did they want to expand on that considerably? I thought they simply wanted to leverage tracking to strengthen the logistics to make the area a better place to live and work (aka, how often do they empty garbage cans).
I can't say specifically as I have no involvement with this project whatsoever. Nor do I have any direct knowledge what they where actually going to do...so this is purely from a "what if" conjecture, as most of us here seem to be coming from. But the question I guess was would they put names and addresses to those logistics (as in, who threw what in those garbage cans they're tracking in the example). And would they use it to argument their bottom line and/or sell to the highest 3rd party bidder? Etc...

Again, this is purely speculation. But oned I guess that raises reasonable concerns about it. And if this is already be done that on the internets as claimed, who can say it would of be done more so with this project or not?
 

TheSix

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I can't say specifically as I have no involvement with this project whatsoever. Nor do I have any direct knowledge what they where actually going to do...so this is purely from a "what if" conjecture, as most of us here seem to be coming from. But the question I guess was would they put names and addresses to those logistics (as in, who threw what in those garbage cans they're tracking in the example). And would they use it to argument their bottom line and/or sell to the highest 3rd party bidder? Etc...

Again, this is purely speculation. But oned I guess that raises reasonable concerns about it. And if this is already be done that on the internets as claimed, who can say it would of be done more so with this project or not?
Thanks for expanding, I really do love these discussions and it's great to see new active members.

However, I worry this type of speculation (instead of facts), helped attribute the demise of this promising partnership. Tech companies will need to develop smarter strategies to help suppress this era of fake news and conspiracy theorists. Just because Sidewalk Labs is tied to Google, doesn't mean they have anything close to the above in their peripheral vision.
 

Lenser

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I think UtakataNoAnnex put it mildly. Alphabet is not the Google of old with their charming mantra "don't be evil." I'm not attributing a comic-book brand of nefarious plotting to this tech giant but I sure as hell don't trust them any more than I trust people blandly slapping the moniker "fake news" on subjects and facts they don't like. I think Sidewalk Labs primarily pulled away because the shine on the economics side of the equation was coming off, but I suspect it's also true that they weren't making headway on fighting off legitimate privacy concerns.

I will agree with you however that "tech companies will need to develop smarter strategies," period. Alphabet tried to slip deftly into place and found too many obstacles in their way.
 

UtakataNoAnnex

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To be clear, I wasn't looking at Google as some evil nefarious company we should avoid getting in bed with - that's way too over cooking it for my tastes. Rather, that Sidewalk Labs where developing this project to make money. And one where there is a lot could be made in accumulating and dispersing information with potentially invasive technologies to do just that. In my opinion, especially where the consumers and public are concerned in using this place, we should be all be wary of that.
 

ericmacm

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I agree that the Google we see today is a far cry from what it once was, and as a result of this, we should be wary in regards to what powers we give them. This goes for all tech giants.

Personal data is the most valuable commodity in the modern world, and Google has an incredible amount of power in terms of how that data is used or sold. The collection, retention, and sale of personal data is largely unregulated in most countries, and it is important to remember this. A tech company like Google only needs to cover itself by outlining its intentions in a set of terms and conditions, which are required to be accepted before using any of their products or services, which nobody reads anyway. This pretty much gives them carte blanche in regards to data collection, as long as they have it in the terms and conditions.

There were a lot of different methods of data collection proposed in Sidewalk's report on the subject, called the "Digital Innovation Appendix". These mainly involve the collection of aggregate data, mainly for the optimization of the services they planned to offer within the community (trash collection, adaptive signals/lighting/heating, etc), allowing for adjustments based on traffic loads at certain times of day. This is fine. However, you can actually go through the list and start to see the implications of the type of infrastructure and modelling they intended on doing. Some systems, namely the "Outcome-Based Building Code Monitoring" infrastructure have a lot of worrying capabilities, such as indoor sound monitoring equipment (outlined to "ensure tenants stay below acceptable noise thresholds"), indoor air quality monitoring equipment, and more, such as vaguely defined "tenant diversity tracking", combining the data in a BIM-type setting. Things like this, combined with other metadata that Google would most certainly be collecting from its residents, could very much allow for a "social credit" type system emerging within the community.

Sidewalk does state that they aimed to collect the least amount of personal data possible, but after approval, a simple alteration to the terms and conditions could have changed that. The issue here is not about the Google of today, but what the Google of tomorrow wants. The concerns are about the possible extent of what could have been collected, not necessarily what Google had "promised" to collect.
 

picard102

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Sure it is. It's also debatable to assume that Google is your friend.
Honestly, are you suggesting people think Google is their friend? Give it a shake.

Some systems, namely the "Outcome-Based Building Code Monitoring" infrastructure have a lot of worrying capabilities, such as indoor sound monitoring equipment (outlined to "ensure tenants stay below acceptable noise thresholds"), indoor air quality monitoring equipment, and more, such as vaguely defined "tenant diversity tracking", combining the data in a BIM-type setting.
Ensuring residents adhere to noise bylaws, and protect other residents air quality are exactly the kinds of things needed.
 

Lenser

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Honestly, are you suggesting people think Google is their friend? Give it a shake.
No need. You're acting like everything's hunky-dory with Alphabet; great! Blue sky away, Captain. I simply don't trust the tech juggernauts as much as you evidently do.
 

kotsy

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Honestly, are you suggesting people think Google is their friend? Give it a shake.
Some people think that for sure. Certainly not everyone but definitely a sample of people that use their products/applications.
 

ericmacm

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Ensuring residents adhere to noise bylaws, and protect other residents air quality are exactly the kinds of things needed.
That's not the point.

I live in an apartment and I have problems with my noisy neighbours just as much as anyone else, but 24/7 indoor monitoring of sound and air quality has no legal precedent and is extremely invasive. This is additionally dangerous for privacy in combination with aggregate data, especially when put in the scope of an entire apartment/condo building, or even an entire neighbourhood. You have to think on a grander scale for the implications of this hardware. Combining all of this information (tenant demographic data, web traffic data, account information, phone GPS data, public transportation usage, facial recognition data, home energy/water usage, indoor air quality and sound recording) into a larger centralized GIS or BIM-style database can tell you a lot of information about a single person, especially if all controlled by one centralized authority such as Google. One could potentially use this sort of information to determine the "quality" of a tenant and be able to weed out negative qualities for potential applicants based on algorithms and data alone.

All sorts of companies already buy aggregate data on their customers from Google and other tech companies. The pitch for Sidewalk was, at its core level, an experimental product that, upon success, would have most likely been sold to cities, developers, and property management companies. This data would be by far the most valuable kind, and could very easily be able to determine the character of an individual through the monitoring of their lifestyle. Imagine if this data were to be used by a bank to determine your eligibility for a mortgage or loan, or by a hotel or travel company to determine your eligibility to rent a room or book a flight. Having an entire city running with Sidewalk-levels of data collection technology would be completely dystopic. Imagine being restricted to lower quality housing because of your tenant "score" or an algorithm determines you to most likely be a "low quality" tenant.

I encourage everyone to read the report and look at the database for these technologies and what was planned. We currently do have "rating" systems, such as credit scores, but this would be on a completely new level. Opening up the potential of a centralized social credit system should not be considered acceptable in Canada. I would prefer our county to embrace privacy and digital freedom, not contribute to the erosion of it.
 

TheSix

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No need. You're acting like everything's hunky-dory with Alphabet; great! Blue sky away, Captain. I simply don't trust the tech juggernauts as much as you evidently do.
I think you're making some generalizations with this observation.
 

Lenser

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Sure, OK... what are they, then? You're not making any generalizations in this thread, I guess? We're just having a conversation here about why Sidewalk split the scene. It's a given we're not all on the same page as to why, or whether the news is good or bad for the city... or a mix of both.
 

mjl08

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I suspect that COVID was one of many factors that led to Quayside's demise. Another key factor was Sidewalk Lab expecting more political and financial support from the provincial and federal governments.

When first announced, Trudeau and the Liberals were extremely vocal in their support. The proposal fit in perfectly with the government's ribbon-cutting-innovation agenda. However, the public outcry of Amazon HQ2 in New York and deepening public suspicion about Big Tech definitely quashed the government's enthusiasm. Meanwhile, the Ford government was always frosty towards the proposal and unlikely to carry it along.

While I strongly opposed the proposal, I acknowledge that Sidewalk scooped up a lot of talented planners, architects and engineers, and I hope they can adapt their skills for a different and better employer.
 

picard102

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I live in an apartment and I have problems with my noisy neighbours just as much as anyone else, but 24/7 indoor monitoring of sound and air quality has no legal precedent and is extremely invasive.
It's not invasive at all. People violating the noise bylaws and bringing air quality down are what's invasive. All this hand wringing about google knowing if you take your garbage out at night or the morning is a little tin foil hat.
 

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