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

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Toronto has a long history of failed planning and rolling over for conventional real estate developers; that’s why it has an abysmal mix where the downtown is dominated by single family dwellings, and a near complete lack of purpose-built rental.

This is reflected in the compromised infrastructure in Toronto that has the perverse effect of making workable transit primarily an asset for the middle class, and an inaccessible resource for working people. It’s why tens of thousands of people live in basements built to contain coal and provide storage, not house people. It’s why huge disparities in access to resources are at the fundamental core of the city, with a privileged centre that lives completely differently from their other residents, with rec centres, parks, transit, health services, snow clearance and a vital cultural life reserved for some but not others. Most of all, it’s characterized by a pattern of planning permissions that has, and continues to create future disasters. The energy-squandering condo towers that have dominated Toronto real estate, with a 20 year shelf life, in a town already plagued by dysfunctional 60’s towers was the previous iteration of this failure.

Alphabet’s capacity for research undoubtedly came into play when looking for a victim/guinea pig for their crap schemes. And Toronto is coming through as expected, providing the short-view, compliant, submissive and weak governance they’ve distinguished themselves for .

I don’t live there any more.


Good. the city could use some smartification. Knee-jerk “google bad” opposition not withstanding. Let’s see how it works out on this tiny portion of the city before prejudging.

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Please ignore the alarmist Boing Boing writers who don’t live up here. Without SWL, we have a premier who thinks the best thing for Toronto is a downtown casino, ferris wheel and parking lot barge on the water. Also, the only other thing coming to Toronto in the next year is a 6 story rubber ducky and Celine Dion, so, c’mon, give me a break, without Sidewalk Labs, Toronto will remain in it’s hyper-naive 1978 mindset for the next 25 years. Also, you have an iPhone on and in your pocket right now, right? Then get a grip.

At its essence, the project of mobility tracking, face tracking, and the exploitation of data derived from that (as well as the data you rightly point out is derived from phones, and the data that CCTV systems produce) can be objected to on the basis of civil liberties. You should be more respectful of the concerns of those of us who take this seriously. This is not alarmism, an epithet that those who dismiss threats always hurl at those whose complacency doesn’t run as deep as theirs. Think Global Warming, Civil Rights, War in Iraq, etc. etc… Those who object an express concern have always been alarmists. It’s a crude, disrespectful and dismissive argument.

It’s not right to say that this is a local issue, for the very reason that it impacts rights to privacy, and it is applied indiscriminately. In the rare cases where we have zones or locations where rights otherwise held are suspended, there are compelling reasons related usually to security concerns, or private property rights. I can’t make jokes about bombs in transit centres like airports or train stations; my expectation of tracking an a private space like a mall should be greater than my public expectations. This all goes out the window with Sidewalk Labs. This tracking happens in a public space, but behaves like a private domain; and the impositions are not supported by any compelling concern beyond the desire of a corporation to control and monitor us.

I can turn my phone off, and I’m not required to carry one. CCTV systems may be private, but to aggregate their data to produce continuous tracking of any and all individuals in an area, you’re probably looking at a system that operates under political oversight (think of the UK). That provides processes and models for responsibility and accountability. None of that happens here.

You may be comfortable with this, but others are not. To rationalize this because Toronto is a cultural backwater (Celine Dion and rubber ducky, your characterization), and under the incompetent control of politically unaccountable hacks (agree this is true, and a fundamental flaw in Toronto governance, and municipal governance in Canada), is not an argument for what amounts to blanket imposition of arguably unconstitutional overreach into the lives of others. Enthusiasm for Black Mirror isn’t a basis for forcing me to live in it.

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