If you live in and around Toronto, you've probably heard someone mention Sidewalk Labs at some point in the past few weeks. As a part of Google's latest project, Toronto has become the destination where the "most wired community in history," is set to be created. Some see it as a great opportunity to put Toronto on the map and establish a strong relationship with American tech giant, Google. But, many others aren't seeing the opportunity in such a positive light.
Along with the introduction of the project, a significant amount of backlash, specifically on the subject of privacy, has come up. Torontonians are concerned that the Sidewalk Labs project is allowing Google to use a major Canadian city as their personal guinea pig.
The simplest way to describe Sidewalk Labs is that it's a community plan that will involve 800 acres of property that Google and Waterfront Toronto will collaborate on, erecting apartments, stores, office buildings and a school.
Within the given area, Google will be hooking up everything from street lamps to even the streets themselves to create what they call the path to "fundamentally refine what urban life can be."
Everything from heated roads that can melt snow to installed sensors at crosswalks to protect pedestrians from traffic to even driverless shuttles "that will carry people to their doors," the concept sounds like it based on a world out of a 'Black Mirror' episode.
Naturally, considering the technology-heavy aspect of the community, many people are skeptical of the product and its possible nefarious intentions that could be hidden behind an idea that's being branded as progressive.
Especially considering that Google has become well known for their data-hungry tactics, the idea of having an entire community of people have every aspect of their lives involving some sort of Google technology starts to sound a little eerie.
Even former Blackberry CEO Jim Balsillie has called out the concept claiming "the Waterfront Toronto executives and board are too dumb to realize they are getting played.
"Google knew what they wanted. And the politicians wanted a PR splash and the Waterfront board didn’t know what they are doing. And the citizens of Toronto and Canada are going to pay the price," said Balsillie.
Both Google and the Waterfront board have attempted to push the positive branding of the community as a "smart city," but it's clear that most Torontonians are more weary than excited at the possibility. It's important to note that the project is still in the very early stages.
Sidewalk Labs has even included a statement on privacy in their promotion claiming the neighbourhood will be "a place that's enhanced by digital technology and data, without giving up the privacy and security that everyone deserves."
Considering the recent issues with platforms such as Facebook, it's not surprising that the statement isn't easing many Torontonians' minds on the subject. Though Dan Doctoroff, the CEO of Sidewalk Labs told Global News that "the company isn't looking to monetize people's information in the way that Google does now with search information."
For now, it seems that Torontonians will have to wait until more of the plans surrounding the tech neighbourhood come out. Regardless though, it seems most people just aren't on board with that kind of technology just yet.