A privacy expert tasked with protecting personal data within a Google-backed smart city project has resigned as her pro-privacy guidelines would largely be ignored by participants.
“I imagined us creating a Smart City of Privacy, as opposed to a Smart City of Surveillance,” Ann Cavoukian, the former privacy commissioner of Ontario, wrote in a resignation letter to Google sister company Sidewalk Labs.
“I felt I had no choice because I had been told by Sidewalk Labs that all of the data collected will be de-identified at source,” she added.
Cavoukian was an acting consultant involved in the plan by Canada’s Waterfront Toronto to develop a smart city neighborhood in the city’s Quayside development. She had created an initiative called Privacy by Design that aimed to ensure citizens’ personal data would be protected.
Once it became apparent that citizen privacy could not be guaranteed, Cavoukian decided it was time to leave the project.
The city will also provide each citizen a “user account” which will allow access to “the various online services of the neighborhood and improve participatory democracy.” Such an account could potentially work with facial recognition “and allow for example a repairman to get into a home to perform his duties and firefighters to have access a building when a fire alarm is triggered.”
The project’s critics included former BlackBerry CEO Jim Balsillie who referred to the development as “a colonizing experiment in surveillance capitalism attempting to bulldoze important urban, civic and political issues.”