Hundreds Protest Decision Allowing Google to Turn Toronto Neighborhood into a “Smart City”

By B.N. Frank

“Smart Cities” are great for those who collect, analyze and sell residents’ and visitors’ data.  Everyone else seems to be getting a bum deal though (see 1, 2, 3).

According to a 2018 Smart Cities Dive article, 66% of Americans don’t want to live in “Smart Cities” because of privacy and cybersecurity concerns.  No mention of how many didn’t want to live in them because of 24/7 exposure to biologically harmful radiation from 4G and 5G small cell technology being installed near homes and everywhere else in order to make communities “Smart.”

Thanks to BoingBoing for reporting about what’s been decided for a neighborhood in Toronto apparently without most residents’ knowledge or consent.

At Waterfront Toronto’s first meeting for the public after its board of directors voted Oct. 31 to continue negotiating with Sidewalk Labs on the parameters of a 12-acre surveillance district, officials from the public agency made it clear they’re already wedded to the Google sister company.

The hundreds of attendees of last night’s ‘Public Update on Quayside’ were each given a package that included a copy of an Oct. 29 letter from Waterfront Toronto President and CEO George Zegarac to Sidewalk Labs’s Chief Development Officer Josh Sirefman. Zegarac lays out in the letter how the two bodies will work closely together — with Waterfront Toronto taking the lead in on such things as negotiations with all three levels of government – to “develop an ‘Innovation Plan’ to advance and achieve Waterfront Toronto’s priority outcomes.” Based on this newly arrived at ‘realignment of Master Innovation and Development Plan threshold issues,’ Waterfront Toronto’s final decision on whether to proceed with the plan will be taken by its board by March 31, 2020.

Members of the public who walked into last night’s meeting with a scintilla of hope that Waterfront Toronto officials may still admit it is extremely unwise to bed down with a high-tech giant had that hope dashed. (And it was even further smashed by a November 19 Reuters report quoting key Waterfront Toronto officials as saying they have all the information they need to evaluate Sidewalk Labs’s proposal.)

Among the ‘pearls’ at the November 19 public meeting:

– in response to a question about how Waterfront Toronto can possibly curtail how much information is collected by Sidewalk Labs, Zegarac said they would penalize Sidewalk Labs if it breaches privacy boundaries. Audience member Melissa Goldstein scoffed at the idea of penalties having any effect on Google. Zegarac replied, “I’m just saying what we’re trying to do. Nobody’s outlawed Google from their country. We need to be realistic about what we can do with this project.”

– Meg Davis, Waterfront Toronto’s Chief Development Officer, responded to a question about whether the public can evaluate Sidewalk Labs’s business plans for Quayside by saying Waterfront Toronto isn’t capable of making such an assessment. “Sidewalk Labs is a private company, so I don’t know how we would technically evaluate those business models for them,” Davis said with a straight face.

– another audience member asked when Waterfront Toronto will file documents to respond to a lawsuit by the Canadian Civil Liberties Association — which the group filed in April 2019, challenging the jurisdiction of Waterfront Toronto in entering such a complex agreement with Sidewalk Labs, and asserting such an agreement violates residents’ Charter rights to privacy, liberty and free association — and which is continuing. Zegarac replied, “You know what? We’re kind of removed on this one because this is before the courts, so I don’t want to get into any details, but we are responding to that, so I’ll just leave it at that.” Zegarac’s response is classic official obfuscation: the truth is that Waterfront Toronto has not yet filed any documents. Instead, Waterfront Toronto’s lawyers, whose high bills are footed by taxpayers, are busy keeping the case out of court.

Activist Post Recommended Book: The Age of Surveillance Capitalism

Opposition to “Smart Cities” and 5G is increasing (see 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7).  In February, telecom executives testified that they have NO EVIDENCE that 5G safe.  Many health experts say it isn’t (see 1, 2).  Warnings about 5G have also been issued by a variety of credible sources IN ADDITION TO doctors, environmentalists, scientists and security experts.

Activist Post reports regularly about “Smart Cities” and 5G.  For more information visit our archives.

Image credit: Pixabay

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