Smart Cities

The Issue

Municipal governments are increasingly turning to comprehensive electronic data collection as a purported means to increase the quality of both public services and the lives of their residents. So-called “smart cities” aim to make pervasive use of data from information and communication technologies to shape every aspect of urban life. The smart city concept is predicated on ubiquitous wireless broadband and the embedding of computerised sensors widely in as many aspects as possible of our public and private spheres.

Why It Matters

Championed by large technology companies and embraced, often uncritically, by well-intentioned politicians and government staff, the “smart cities” approach is dependent on a vast network of sensors -- millions of electronic ears, eyes and noses – that make possible widespread and permanent surveillance by whomever has access to the data.  This raises questions of privacy but even more importantly questions of the public’s right and ability to govern what data are collected, how they are used, and who owns and controls them.

Our Work

The Centre has helped create and is hosting the Toronto Open Smart Cities Forum. Its role is to provide information and analysis, undertake public education, and foster public discussion, openness and transparency with respect to Toronto’s new “smart city” initiative – Sidewalk Toronto – a joint initiative of Google’s Sidewalk Labs and Waterfront Toronto – the federal/provincial/municipal body responsible for overseeing the development of Toronto’s waterfront.

Click here for information about the Forum – its work and how you can be involved.

Resources

Blog Post

A public-partnership for secrecy? Waterfront Toronto’s ‘smart city’ ongoing discussions with Sidewalk Labs

The Google-affiliated American company Sidewalk Labs’ 1500-page proposal for a smart city on Toronto’s eastern waterfront has received p

By Mariana Valverde

Blog Post

“Urban Data” & “Civic Data Trusts” in the Smart City

On June 24, Sidewalk Labs, a sister company to Google, released its three-volume, 1,500-page Master Innovation and Development Plan (MIDP) containing its draft proposals for a smart-city project in

By Natasha Tusikov

Blog Post

The Google ‘Smart City’ Plan: Financial Language of Hi-Tech Colonialism

George Orwell’s 1946 essay “Politics and the English language” is my suggested summer reading for Toronto city councillors and anyone interested in the ‘smart city’ plan that Sidewalk Labs/Google h

By Mariana Valverde

Blog Post

Google’s “Urban Data” Plan: Evading Regulation While Promoting the Appearance of Transparency

If you care about corporations monetizing data generated by people’s desire to communicate, you may have read worrying stories featuring some of the Google octopus of companies, including Sidewalk

By Mariana Valverde

Blog Post

Toronto's Leadership Dithers While Sidewalk Labs Plans City Revenue Grab

The ‘smart city’ proposal, concocted by Google-affiliated Sidewalk Labs behind the backs not only of citizens but of all our elected officials, was leaked to the 

By Mariana Valverde