Civil liberties association threatens legal action to block Sidewalk Labs smart city project

Civil liberties association threatens legal action to block Sidewalk Labs smart city project

The civil liberties association wants the project halted until all three levels of government have established “digital data governance polices” for the “appropriate” collection, ownership, use and storage of personal information that would be obtained in the smart city.

Sidewalk Labs is partnering with Waterfront Toronto on the controversial project to create a data-driven neighbourhood that would be equipped with sensors and data collection devices intended to make life more efficient for its residents.

But all three levels of government must first legislate protections for citizens “from the risks of surveillance capitalism on our streets,” the CCLA says.

In its statement, the organization said agreements in place up to now between Waterfront Toronto and Sidewalk contemplate a “non-consensual, state-authorized mass capture of Canadians’ personal information.”

The rights group added that as a result, the right to privacy under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms is being breached. Policy statutes applicable to Waterfront Toronto are also being breached, the group argues.

Sidewalk is currently working on a draft master plan for the smart city project. That and a final master plan would require approval from Waterfront Toronto.

But Waterfront Toronto, the CCLA says, is in charge of revitalizing the waterfront, not data and privacy, and the organization gave away powers to a private enterprise — Sidewalk Labs — that cannot legally be given away.

In its “digital governance proposals,” Sidewalk has pledged not to control data collected in its smart city, and is calling for, among other things, the establishment of an independent, civic data trust that would monitor the collection, use and storage of data collected at the smart city.

Leaked documents obtained by the Star last month showed that rather than a 12-acre plot of land on Queens Quay E., Sidewalk envisions developing 350 acres in the Port Lands, details sources say Ontario Premier Doug Ford and his government continue to have “serious concerns” about.

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