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.
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.