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Sidewalk Labs details digital systems, says it won't sell data or use facial recognition

A new Digital Innovation Appendix outlines all proposed digitally enabled systems for Waterfront Toronto, aiming to clarify the ‘how’ and ‘who’ for each service as well as the ‘what’ and ‘why’.

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Artist's impression of the Waterfront Toronto development
Artist's impression of the Waterfront Toronto development

Alphabet-owned Google sibling Sidewalk Labs has released a new update on its plans for the controversial Waterfront Toronto development.

 

The 483-page Digital Innovation Appendix (DIA) aims to provide up-to-date information on the digital innovation components of its proposal and to address some of the questions raised following the release of the 1,500-page draft master innovation and development plan (MIDP) in June.

 

The DIA outlines all proposed digitally enabled services for Waterfront Toronto, aiming to clarify the ‘how’ and ‘who’ for each service as well as the ‘what’ and the ‘why’.

 

The proposal features 18 digitally enabled systems with 52 “subsystems”. Systems outlined include self-driving rubbish bins, dynamic kerbs, heated pavements, a pay-as-you-throw waste system, a mobility-as-a-service (MaaS) platform and more.

 

Digital systems

 

Earlier this month, the Board of Waterfront Toronto unanimously agreed that Sidewalk Labs’ plan to create a smart neighbourhood in a disused area of Toronto’s Quayside district can proceed to more formal evaluation and further public consultation.

 

However, certain elements were significantly scaled back, including the amount of land, the oversight of data and the “lead developer” role.

 

The proposal features 18 digitally enabled systems with 52 “subsystems”.

 

The DIA document describes each digital system’s purpose, structure, methods, typical and proposed responsible parties for oversight, proposed lead for procurement, and relationship to the growth of the innovation ecosystem. It also outlines the types of data that would be collected and any precedent for the service in Toronto or elsewhere, such as pilots.

 

Sidewalk Labs says over 80 per cent of the services and systems it is proposing have already been partially or fully implemented in Toronto or elsewhere around the world. Three-quarters would be procured from third parties, meaning only a quarter would be developed by Sidewalk Labs.

 

Personal data and facial recognition

 

According to the DIA, 60 per cent of subsystems don’t generate any personal information. No facial recognition will be used, according to the document.

 

Sidewalk Labs says it is committed to “digital restraint”, only proposing digital solutions that advance Waterfront Toronto’s goals. It also claims data minimisation, security and de-identification by default, meaning it restricts the collection and use of especially personal information.

 

According to the DIA, 60 per cent of subsystems don’t generate any personal information. No facial recognition will be used, according to the document.

 

The company reiterated its commitment that it won’t use data for advertising, nor sell it to third parties. It also won’t share personal information with third parties (including other Alphabet entities) without explicit consent.

 

Sidewalk Labs has committed to comply with all present and future Canadian privacy and data governance laws, regulations and policy.

 

A decision about whether to move forward with Sidewalk Labs’ plan will be made by March 31, 2020, by Waterfront Toronto’s Board.

 

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