“No matter what Google is offering, the value to Toronto cannot possibly approach the value your city is giving up,”
The 12-acre Quayside project, a partnership between Google’s Sidewalk Labs and the city of Toronto, has come under increasing scrutiny amid concerns over privacy and data harvesting.
This week, the US venture capitalist Roger McNamee warned that technology companies such as Google cannot be trusted to safely manage the data they collect on residents.
“The smart city project on the Toronto waterfront is the most highly evolved version to date of … surveillance capitalism”, he wrote to the city council, suggesting Google will use “algorithms to nudge human behavior” in ways to “favor its business”.
McNamee, an early investor in Facebook and Google, is co-founder of Silver Lake Partners, one of the world’s largest technology investors.
But in recent years, he has soured on many of the technology giants and their handling of data and privacy concerns.
“No matter what Google is offering, the value to Toronto cannot possibly approach the value your city is giving up,” he wrote, pleading with officials to abandon1 the project. “It is a dystopian vision that has no place in a democratic society.”
Despite initial public support for the project, Quayside has been dogged by fears of data harvesting, privacy concerns and an overall lack of transparency.
In early October, entrepreneur Saadia Muzaffar resigned from the project’s advisory panel, citing a lack of transparency by Waterfront Toronto and saying the organization showed “apathy and a lack of leadership regarding shaky public trust”.
Later that month, Ann Cavoukian, the former privacy commissioner of Ontario, also resigned. “I imagined us creating a Smart City of Privacy, as opposed to a Smart City of Surveillance,” she wrote in her resignation letter.