Key (mostly unanswered) Questions Regarding Sidewalk Toronto Project

 

Table of Contents

 

A. BUSINESS MODEL AND PROJECT GOVERNANCE

B. DATA AND DATA GOVERNANCE

C. PUBLIC PROCESS AND ENGAGEMENT

D. INCLUSIVITY

E. COLLABORATION WITH GOVERNMENT

F. OPENNESS

G. PRIVACY LAW

H. HARD INFRASTRUCTURE

I. SUSTAINABILITY/RESILIENCE

J. FURTHER REFERENCE

K. CONTRIBUTORS

 


 

A. BUSINESS MODEL AND PROJECT GOVERNANCE

  1. Who is the user that Sidewalks Labs is ultimately serving? Companies that want to learn about how people interact with physical spaces? Real estate investors? Cities? “Smart for whom?”
  2. How will Sidewalks Labs balance the needs of those users when making decisions about development, privacy, security, access, etc.?
  3. How will these decisions be transparent and regulated by the people in and accessing these spaces?
  4. How will the intellectual property developed from this project be governed and managed? By whom?
    • Sidewalk Toronto responds: The rights and governance related to intellectual property (IP) for Sidewalk Toronto will be defined in subsequent agreements that occur throughout the year-long joint planning process. At the end of this process, both Waterfront Toronto and Sidewalk Labs must approve the plan to proceed. In the event the plan is not approved by both partners, Waterfront Toronto will retain a perpetual, non-exclusive, royalty-free license to use site-specific IP developed over that time-period.
  5. Who will residents contact should they seek relief from a problem related to the development?
  6. What does success look like? How much failure is tolerable (or needed)? To what extent do innovations, proven at Sidewalk, need to roll out to the rest of the city for this to be a success?
  7. Are there any academic planning theories that underlie and/or support the philosophy of Sidewalk Labs? What is the theoretical framework being employed for this development?
  8. How does one define empowerment in the smart city? Principles like "efficient access to services" and "utilization of space will influence how the space is modified" are very different from fairness and equity-based decision making.
  9. How will Sidewalk Labs be held to account for any failures in meeting its goals?
  10. Will Sidewalk Labs share its feasibility studies for the proposal with the public, including methodology and data?
  11. Will deliberations and meetings be open? Meeting minutes? Video recordings? Attendance records? Records of votes? Training manuals?
    • Sidewalk Toronto responds: Waterfront Toronto will take the lead on making publicly accessible and transparent all records of open and public meetings. In particular, this will be facilitated both through a formal public consultation process—full plan to be released in early 2018—as well as through Waterfront Toronto’s Open Meetings Processes, as they are applied to board meetings and board committee meetings. Take a look at Waterfront Toronto’s Open Meetings Processes (PDF).
  12. Will this project create opportunities that provide sustainable benefits for local tech/city building industries & workers? Will bids, contracts, and procurement decisions be public and transparent? To what extent will local tech/city building industries & workers be protected from outside/non-local bidding that undercuts their value? 
  13. What other possible uses/developments for this parcel of land were considered, if any?
  14. What cost/benefit analysis was carried out to evaluate the relative merits for all Toronto citizens of the proposed development vs. other possible uses?
  15. Why wouldn't this parcel be a better use of public investment for a public park area than, say, the proposed "Raildeck" park?
  16. What mechanisms exist for the public to remove sensors, delete data, remove infrastructure, cancel contracts, change/delete algorithms, and otherwise shape the space themselves?
  17. Will individuals be permitting to bring signal jammers, and other devices permitted by law onto the premises?
  18. Sidewalk says to make this work they're going to eventually need a significant chunk of the port lands. At most, there will only be a few decades, likely less, after the first site is built before commitments need to be made for a total Port Lands redevelopment. Regent Park was considered extremely successful in its first couple decades, it took longer than that for its design problems to become apparent. Is it really wise to turn over such a large and important area for Toronto's future to a questionable experiment?
  19. We have lots of experience already on how to build mixed use areas through relaxed zoning such as the King/Parliament and King/Spadina zoning experiments. We already know how to build neighbourhoods that work. We have thousands of years of city building from around the world to draw upon for such things. There are already technologies and building methods to improve things like the local environment, waste reduction, and transportation. My biggest question of all is why do we need this experiment in building "smart" cities?
  20. In its proposal, Sidewalk also said that Toronto would need to waive or exempt many existing regulations in areas like building codes, transportation, and energy in order to build the city it envisioned. The project may need “substantial forbearances from existing laws and regulations,” the group said.https://www.ft.com/content/...This in itself is not only something missed by the Cdn press save alternative publications like this, (and mentioned in passing today in a TorStar article) but raises a myriad of questions in itself. That same flexibility is not shown to other well-meaning and perhaps even more altruistic developers.Why should Sidewalk be offered planning and zoning latitudes that others are told just isn't possible or allowable?
  21. With any of the above exemptions, will there be a timeline for making each exemption universal?
  22. How can we help allow regular people to see government (politicians and civil servants) as more competent in designing and implementing tech?
  23. What is Sidewalk’s proposed revenue model - what will they actually be selling? Given it is likely data/platform services that have been co-created by/with the community, will there be revenue sharing models in place?
  24. Who will own thermal grid/other utilities?
  25. Sidewalk Labs appears to be a thinly-staffed front company for Alphabet/Google. Google has made significant research and development investments in transhumanism. What is the role of Google executive Ray Kurzweil who philosophizes that the computational power to emulate the human brain will arrive in the 2020s? Has Google invested in the simulation of human memory? Has Google conducted research into producing and inserting memory into humans? Is the ulterior intent of Sidewalk Labs to create a privatized, transhumanist colony that privileges Google’s proprietary capital investments in transhumanism?
  26. A privatized transhumanist colony will require significant, even “omnibus” exemptions from legislation, which is essentially designed for a humanist world and could encumber Kurzweil’s utopia. Has Waterfront Toronto refused to release its contract with Sidewalk Labs because the contract is ultra viresWaterfront Toronto’s very limited delegated authority?  Does the contract trigger the referendum requirement of the Municipal Franchise Act? 
  27. Would Google/Alphabet be willing to take on this project if its role was restricted to an advisor and that all benefits/revenue/rights/patents derived from the public in the public space were directed to and owned by a not for profit corporation governed by the public?
  28. What is the $50 million dollars being spent on?
  29. Are you/will you be lobbying councillors to support your plan?

 

B. DATA AND DATA GOVERNANCE

  1. Who will own/control/have access to the data that is captured by the sensors deployed in this project?
  2. Under what terms will that data be shared? For whom and for what purposes?
  3. Who controls the Sidewalk Labs platform? Is it the residents? City Hall? Sidewalk Labs (and, by extension, Google/Alphabet)?
  4. Does Sidewalk Labs intend on subcontracting, procuring, or otherwise using computer code, algorithms, services, platforms, etc. from other entities, and using those within the development? If so, will it disclose the terms of those agreements, including public access to data collected, computer code used, etc.?
  5. Does Sidewalk Labs have the ability to access and build upon personas from Alphabet’s data stores?
  6. How vertically integrated with Alphabet products will this new smart city be?
  7. What privacy protection process will be followed to ensure data collected is wo , beyond commitments to Privacy by Design?
  8. How will people's movements be tracked in space and time? Especially marginalized community members, including homeless people?
  9. Passive harvesting of people's movement in space and time as an indicator of intent doesn't constitute engagement. What constitutes democratic participation in smart city design? Will the city/sidewalk be relying on passive forms of “engagement” through data monitoring and distributed sensors?
  10. What role will other data sources/companies have in this data market? For example, Uber, Facebook, Twitter, ISP providers, Cell Service Providers? All these multidata silos
  11. Does Sidewalk Labs reserve the right to sell, in whole or in part, individually-identified or anonymized or aggregated, the data collected by these sensors? Should Sidewalk Labs sell these data, what recourse do individuals have to withdraw from data collection?
  12. Do residents have to sign any agreement, explicit or implicit, about the retention or disclosure of their personal information, in order to live in the area?
  13. Will visitors have to sign any agreement, explicit or implicit, about the retention or disclosure of their personal information upon visiting the area?
  14. How will the rights of residents living in the lands differ than those not residing on the lands?
  15. Do residents have a right to opt-out of the systems? Do they have, or can they claim, a right to be forgotten if data is collected about them? 
  16. Would residents be able to move away from the area without worrying about unwanted data retention?
  17. Will law enforcement have non-subpoena access to any of the data collected by sensors embedded in public spaces?
  18. I still have trouble understanding exactly what's included as sensors, beyond things that measure the environment. Does it mean that all public spaces are covered by networked video cameras that track everyone in the environment to see what they're doing, or who they are?If private sector, this project will be governed by PIPEDA. How will users provide informed consent? By entering the location? By agreeing to terms of service on their smartphone upon entry? How are users to provide informed consent when most individuals do not know the vast ways their data is collected, generated, used, and shared with third parties and governments?
  19. How should the issues of “consent” and “contract” be approached in the smart city? Should individuals be treated as consumers in a free market, able to contract freely and allow their data to be used in exchange for access to the smart city? Or should Canada ban “tying”; meaning the contract between the individual cannot tie consent for the initial data collection and processing to a second or third one?
  20. Privacy, data protection, and information security concerns should be closely linked and not discussed as distinct silos.
    • Sidewalk Toronto responds: Both Waterfront Toronto and Sidewalk Labs agree with this statement. It is the intention of the Sidewalk Toronto partnership to work through these complex issues in collaboration with community stakeholders, academics, experts, and governments. Ann Cavoukian, Ryerson University’s expertin-residence at the Privacy by Design Centre of Excellence, has been engaged as a paid advisor to Sidewalk Labs. Waterfront Toronto has engaged external counsel to provide independent advice on these key issues and other elements of digital governance.
  21. I think in the end the design of ‘Smart Cities’ (using electronic methods to manage assets and resources more efficiently) might be more vigorously questioned as to intent. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smart_city. Efficient for whom? And to what end? Some would say its current intent is to shape consumers’ expectations toward relatively passive choices offered by big (commercial) systems. An alternative, better, priority might be to provide platforms to support collective choices, ie platforms for collaborative action.
  22. Various questions relate to ownership of data, use of the data, sale of the data etc . which brings into question the scope and purpose of a “community trust” to manage the data put forward by Dan Doctoroff.  What does he mean by this? Should not the community define this data trust from the outset of this project?
  23. Would the project consider the idea of personal data store? Tools like the “personal data store” (PDS), if popularized as imagined in the MIT Media Lab OpenPDS pilot, hint at a world where corporate data infrastructure could be less hostile to individuals, and perhaps even empowering. These PDS would allow citizens the option to be the sole holders of the raw data, and through pre-set rules, automatically respond to company requests for processed data. These processed data could be anonymized or made more granular according to rules set by individuals, and each request logged for later review. PDS’s likely have the best chance of pleasing all parties only if the experiment involves deep collaboration between digital platform providers and government -- in part crafting policy that could start to hold all companies to the same standard. Is Sidewalk Labs open to using this opportunity to consider how PDS can improve the landscape of citizen data stewardship?

 

C. PUBLIC PROCESS AND ENGAGEMENT

  1. What is the City's vision for smart cities? What do residents want to learn/build/pioneer with this opportunity? Which branches of civic government will be tasked with carrying forth this vision?
  2. How do we define the community that needs to be consulted and engaged on this project?
    • Sidewalk Toronto responds: With the idea that Sidewalk Toronto can become a global demonstration project that builds inclusive people-centred neighbourhoods that are radically more sustainable and affordable, and that increase mobility and economic opportunity for all, it becomes vitally important to engage broadly with all Torontonians and more deeply with a representative sample of the population. Some of the values that inform our approach to engagement include:
      • Embracing diversity and difference across the Toronto
      • A belief that every resident should have a voice • Working in good faith in service of the public good
      • Ensuring our work is inclusive of and accessible to all
      • Respect for continuous learning and the expertise of lived experience
      • A belief that solving complex issues requires genuine collaboration
  3. With global attention on this work, how will the balance between global and local input be struck? LinkNYC project
  4. How will this project transform technological literacy, including literacy on data and the application of data, such as algorithms and machine learning? And more specifically, how will historically marginalized communities that may not yet have experience or exposure to the implications of this project participate in the public engagement process?Clarity on the ownership of the co-design and public engagement process will inform participation. Whose meetings are these public meetings? Waterfront Toronto or Sidewalk Labs?
  5. How will public feedback and feedforward be incorporated into design and implementation? Who will field public comments and how will they be acted upon?
  6. How will the use of social media (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, Mobile notifications pushes) be utilized to engage with “citizens” within the area, solicit their feedback, and handle representation issues surrounding those being represented. To what extent will persuasive technologies be utilized to shape engagement within the area and/or to effect civic policies?
  7. How does sufficient advance notice of resources prior to consultations fit into this? Will key documents be released with sufficient time to mobilize responses prior to engagement events?

 

D. INCLUSIVITY

  1. Sidewalks Labs has a mixed record in consulting with marginalized communities, particularly with itst. How will the concerns of those who are at the margins be heard and engaged on an ongoing basis?
  2. What measures are in place to ensure that the project takes into account current and anticipated concerns about gender and racial equity and inclusion?
  3. How can the diverse cultures and background of Toronto, the strength and uniqueness of this city, actively contribute to the design and building of this new space?
  4. Will larger aspects of city initiatives (e.g., TOCore) and other survey-based projects be incorporated in the “Always be Consulting” model with the development of this project?
    • Sidewalk Toronto respondsAs part of Waterfront Toronto’s broader consultation and engagement practice, there are regular inputs of data and public feedback from government and agency partners, such as the City of Toronto, that form the base upon which public consultations are designed.
  5. How will social services be integrated into the “smart infrastructure”?
  6. How does Sidewalk Labs define Diversity? Inclusion? Equity?
    • Sidewalk Toronto responds: Following the lead of Waterfront Toronto’s evolving public consultation practice, the Sidewalk Toronto partnership is actively considering diversity along the lines of (in no particular order) gender, race, age, ability, indigeneity, class, immigration status, family status, sexual orientation, employment status, and education. Sidewalk Labs has publicly committedto making new neighbourhoods affordable and accessible to people of all backgrounds, ages, and means.
  7. How will poor people live there? What measures will be taken to ensure that the area is available for mixed-income residents?
  8. Does Sidewalk Labs release its internal diversity statistics? Will it?
  9. What obligation exists to consult with quasi government agencies (TRCA, Metrolinx etc) and not for profits (i.e. Evergreen) who have parallel sustainability agendas and adjacent/nearby properties.
  10. How will Aboriginal perspectives be incorporated into planning and decision-making?
  11. How will the project incorporate Indigenous treaty principles, including the pre-colonization “Dish With One Spoon” treaty principle of sharing? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dish_With_One_Spoon
  12. How will perspectives and needs of persons with disabilities be incorporated into planning and decision making?
  13. How will the design for accessibility principles be applied not only to physical architecture but throughout the development of technology aspects? e.g. design websites and information for access, have ASL interpreters at public meetings etc.
  14. How will communities that are underrepresented in technology be included in the project and benefit from it i.e. Women, Black, Latinx communities?
  15. How will other minority communities e.g. LGBTQ2SIA, Muslim community be included in the project, that makes these communities feel welcome in an era of Homophobia, Transphobia, Islamophobia? 
  16. How will a diverse set of organizational models e.g cooperatives be incorporated into the project?  Cooperatives exist for housing, food production and even technology businesses. If the entire space is limited exclusively for private businesses, we will not have the possible benefits of diverse organizational models.
  17. How will we include non-proprietary, open source, open data, open access, and open organization principles into the process?

 

E. COLLABORATION WITH GOVERNMENT

  1. How will Sidewalk Labs engage with public sector partners that do not share its vision and level of technology skill? How will Sidewalk ensure that the public service learns as much from this initiative as possible?
  2. How will this project leverage existing tech capacity that sits within government? How will they be engaged? (i.e., TTC’s big data team)

  3. Will City of Toronto departments be directly involved with the design, implementation, and operation of the sidewalk initiatives? For example, will the City of Toronto Urban Planning and Geospatial Competency Center take an active role?
    • Sidewalk Toronto responds: Yes. As with all of the projects and partnerships that Waterfront Toronto enters into, there is close collaboration with City of Toronto departments at every step of the way. This is facilitated by the City of Toronto’s Waterfront Secretariatdivision.
  4. Who will define the stakeholders on the municipality side of the Harbor Front organization and City of Toronto agencies?

 

F. OPENNESS

  1. If the data is to be open, who is making it open? (i.e., is it the City’s data made available under the City’s open data program, or is it Sidewalk Lab’s data, made available through an Application Programming Interface [API]?) Who “owns” and controls the open data program?
  2. If the data is to be “open” what does this mean? Will all of the data be open, or will only certain data be made available through an API? Who will determine what data will be shared? Will there be graduated levels of access (i.e. some data is fully open, but access to more data requires payment?)
  3. Will open standards be mandated?
  4. Will the way data is treated by algorithms be open and accessible?
  5. Does source code, methodologies, and open publishing standards apply to software used in the “smart” infrastructure?
  6. Will the algorithms themselves be publicly available, where audits are possible, to externally verify whether they are the algorithms being used?
  7. How is the academic community being engaged in this process? How will this be a cross-university research endeavour that produces open-access findings? What consultation from existing academic researchers, labs, and clusters has been initiated? Will there be an ongoing commitment to collaborate with the local academic community?
    • Sidewalk Toronto respondsThe Sidewalk Toronto team intends to engage extensively with academic partners and the broader community of leading thinkers as advisors, subject-matter experts, and potential collaborators. More on this in early 2018. In its response to Waterfront Toronto’s RFP, Sidewalk Labs proposed the possible creation of an applied research institute focused on urban innovation in Quayside, developed in close collaboration with local academic institutions.
  8. Will the project be interacting or collaborating with established international academic units with prior experience in smart city initiatives and data justice perspectives, such as the MIT Human Dynamics Lab?
  9. What sort of access will law enforcement have in the physical space? What access will law enforcement have to data collected in the environment? What measures will be taken to ensure that data collected is not used toward predictive policing, which has been demonstrated to be fraught with racial and social biases? 
  10. Should a non-Alphabet service provider wish to use any technology embedded in the area (such as the the sensor network), what controls does Alphabet (or any of its subsidiaries) have over their participation?
  11. Will technical specifications of the platform also be open, in addition to the data generated by it? Will the community be engaged on the technical design of the platform?
  12. Of the technologies created and developed through this project, will it be clearly communicated the nature of their relation to the commons -- ie.are they 1) open source, 2) open platform, or 3) patented/proprietary in nature? And if disclosed, will this information be made clear before or after consultations, when communities are making important decisions about whether initiatives are welcome?
  13. Will it be possible to access internal reports and correspondence through the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act?

 

G. PRIVACY LAW

  1. Which privacy (data protection) law(s) will apply to the data collected, used and disclosed under this project?  
  2. Is the collection by a private sector company governed by the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act? (PIPEDA). Or by the municipal government and governed by Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act? (MFIPPA)  Or by the private sector company on behalf of the municipality (and governed by MFIPPA?)
  3. Will there by clear terms in the agreement indicating which laws will apply?
  4. Are there plans to amend or introduce new legislation or regulation with respect to the privacy rights of individuals residing in or visiting this development?

 

H. HARD INFRASTRUCTURE

  1. Who pays if the experimental technology doesn’t work? For example, there was talk of having roads made with LED lights that can adjust based on the time of day. If the project goes bankrupt, who absorbs the cost of converting those roads to being paved and safely disposing of the LEDs and infrastructure?
  2. Who will be trained to operate, control, maintain proprietary systems used throughout this project?
  3. Do the development plans include a contingency for removing or minimally disabling infrastructure?
  4. Who will be responsible to respond should project infrastructure be hacked?
  5. Are there contingencies for updating obsolete technology. Any tech will be completely obsolete in 5 or 10 years, so how is that planned for? Costs for updating?
  6. Will you be investing money in creating public space?  Public squares with patio cafes? Huge setbacks?

 

I. SUSTAINABILITY/RESILIENCE

  1. What sustainability goals will guide the design – UN SDGs?  LEED? Others?
    • Sidewalk Toronto respondsOne of the key objectives of the Sidewalk Toronto project is to develop “climate positive” neighbourhoods—that is, neighbourhoods that do not emit greenhouse gas and can potentially export clean energy to the surrounding community. The initial vision document outlines a number of approaches to achieve this goal, including mixed-use developments that encourage more walking and cycling, new building controls and Passive House building designs that reduce energy consumption, a thermal grid that captures renewable energy sources, and tall timber structures that reduce construction waste, among others. Many of these approaches will need to push well beyond Waterfront Toronto’s existing Minimum Green Building Standards (PDF)and will help inform the next version of these requirements.
  2. How will sustainability design elements be prioritized – low carbon, cost savings, comfort of residents?
  3. How often and according to what indicators will sustainability be monitored and evaluated?
  4. Will demonstration technologies put spotlight on local/Canadian companies?
  5. Integration with local ecology – Don River mouth revitalization is right next door, needs to inform the design?
  6. Design for resilience – how will technology fare against prolonged power outage (i.e. ice storm), or mitigate flooding (July 2013 storm)?
  7. How will disaster risk reduction, resilience, preparation, response, and emergency management incorporate the use of data collected in the area? What models (e.g. UN’s Sendai Framework) will govern how data collected and technologies designed by Sidewalk are used to prepare for, prevent, or respond to disasters? 
  8. Will there be a regular community sustainability report produced or provided in real time, covering energy use, carbon footprint, water usage, waste etc.?
  9. How will local food production be incorporated to reduce carbon footprint and increase resiliency?

 

J. FURTHER REFERENCE

 

K. CONTRIBUTORS

Nasma Ahmed

Nabeel Ahmed

Joseph Bou Younes

David Eaves

Pamela Robinson

Teresa Scassa

Renee Sieber

Howard Tam

Jess Mitchell

Matthew Tenney

Andrew Simpson

Bianca Wylie
Chelsey Colbert

Patrick Connolly

Gabby Resch

Michael Black

Jury Konga

Ushnish Sengupta

Andrew Clement

 

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