Connectivity & Data
Governance and Citizen
Energy & Environment
The Canadian Civil Liberties Association is suing Waterfront Toronto and three levels of government, asking for the project "to be reset".
The Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) is suing Waterfront Toronto and the federal, provincial and municipal governments over the quayside smart city project in the Canadian city being developed by Sidewalk Labs, owned by Google parent company, Alphabet.
At a press conference, Michael Bryant, CCLA executive director and general counsel, said that Waterfront Toronto and the three levels of government had "sold out" citizens’ constitutional rights to freedom from surveillance “to the global surveillance mammoth of behavioural data collection, Google”.
He said: “The Google-Waterfront Toronto deal is invalid and needs to be reset. “These agreements are contrary to administrative and constitutional law, and set a terrible precedent for the rest of this country. Unlawful surveillance is wrong whether done by data profiteers or the state. We all deserve better from our federal, provincial and municipal governments,” said Bryant.
In March, the CCLA wrote an open letter to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Premier of Ontario, Doug Ford, and Mayor of Toronto, John Tory, asking them to “Hit CTRL-ALT-DELETE on Sidewalk Toronto".
In a written statement, this week, Brenda McPhail, director of privacy, technology and surveillance at the CCLA, said that the association is not scared of change or innovation and nor is it “anti-tech”. She stated: “We are firmly and unapologetically pro-rights and freedoms, and the way this project was conceived puts many of the rights people in Canada value at risk.”
McPhail goes on to list a series of problems around the project, saying it was fatally flawed in the first place and was then presented to the public “as a fait accompli, announced with fanfare by the Prime Minister, then Premier, and Mayor”.
"The way this project was conceived puts many of the rights people in Canada value at risk”
She added: The problem is, the last year and a half of consultations haven’t been asking whether Torontonians want Google’s sister company, Sidewalk Labs, to create a sensor-laden ’test bed’ on the Waterfront, either in the Quayside Neighbourhood or ultimately across the Portlands. They have just been discussing what it should look like and promising us it will be awesome.”
Waterfront Toronto said in a written statement that it has not received a master plan from Sidewalk Labs as yet therefore none of the claims in the CCLA application “can be assessed yet”.
A Canadian Press story on the CBS website said: “A spokesman for Toronto Mayor John Tory said Sidewalk’s final proposal for Quayside will go through "full public scrutiny" for a variety of issues, including those raised in the lawsuit.
The development has been beset by controversy in recent months: tech entrepreneur Saadia Muzaffar resigned from the Digital Strategy Advisory Panel of Waterfront Toronto because of concerns around personal data, followed by privacy expert, Ann Cavoukian, from her position as advisor to Sidewalk Labs; in February Canada’s National Observer obtained an internal document which it said “raises new questions” about the transparency of Sidewalks Labs planning process; and earlier this year citizens launched the Block Sidewalk campaign.
You might also like: