Critics say little talk of data collection in Toronto Sidewalk Labs proposal
An artist's rendering shows what Sidewalk Toronto will look like when it is complete. (Sidewalk Toronto)
Michael Oliveira, The Canadian Press
Published Friday, May 4, 2018 7:45AM EDT
TORONTO -- The public will have to wait until late July to see "initial sketches" of a plan for a proposed high-tech community in the city, while a more detailed proposal is set to be released in October, Sidewalk Labs and Waterfront Toronto said Thursday at a consultation meeting that offered scant new information.
And it won't be until sometime in the new year that citizens will see the full picture being envisioned by Sidewalk Labs, which is owned by Google's parent company Alphabet.
In October, Waterfront Toronto announced it had chosen Sidewalk Labs to present a plan to design a brand new area of the city from scratch, with innovative technologies and infrastructure that's expected to include roads designed for driverless cars.
Bianca Wylie, co-founder of Tech Reset Canada, said the new timetables given for releasing real details about the project will leave the public with little time to assess them.
"They're going to have to have more public meetings or there's no legitimacy," Wylie said.
"You cannot assess something until you see it in its technical detail."
While the public was originally promised a year of "extensive community and stakeholder consultation," that could be extended, said Kristina Verner, vice president of innovation, sustainability and prosperity for Waterfront Toronto.
"That one year is not written in stone, it could be a little longer than a year, the reality is we need to take as much time as it's going to take to make it right," she said.
"It's not a race to the finish, it's a race to getting it right and, if it takes a little bit longer than what had been articulated ahead of time, there's a commitment on both sides to make sure that time is taken to get the community's voice to be heard and actually answer the questions that come forward as a part of the process."
Molly Sauter said she came away from Thursday's event feeling no more informed about the process and called the presentation "an exercise in salesmanship."
"They're very slick and practised in their marketing," said the McGill University PhD candidate. "They are selling the project, they're not particularly interested in what people have to say about the project.
"There's no room for 'how about you just don't use (people's) data, how about you just don't collect the data?' That's not part of this discussion."
Sidewalk Labs chief policy officer Rit Aggarwala told the crowd the company is "not interested in selling personal information" and will ultimately present a plan that will need to be approved by the government before proceeding.
"At the end of the day, this is all going to be a proposal," he said. "There's no decision we get to make."