Last year, Canada made headlines with its latest tech-based project. Toronto’s Smart City was propped up as the end-all smart solution to the every-day problems of city dwellers. However, recent developments show that privacy might not be as protected as once advertised. Read on to get the full story.
Toronto’s Smart City – The Full Story
Last year, the Canadian government announced plans to build a new Smart City project in one of Toronto’s districts called Quayside. In partnership with Google’s sister company, Sidewalk Labs, the aim was to build a city that relies on tech in the physical world to help solve its resident’s problems.
Obviously, this didn’t go down so well with many people. Concerns around data and privacy were at the forefront of the conversation from the get-go. Recent developments with the staff of Sidewalk Labs have brought data usage and collection concern back to the table.
Last week, Dr. Ann Cavoukian, a Privacy expert working with Sidewalk Labs as a consultant, officially resigned from her post in the company. She tied her resignation to the company’s inability to deliver on the privacy measurements developed for the Smart City. In an interview with Global News, she raised concerns over the implementation of privacy-centered regulations:
“Sidewalk said while they would commit to doing it [abiding by the regulations], the other parties involved in these new entitites they’ve created…they couldn’t make them do it […] I have to resign because [Sidewalk Labs] commited to embedding privacy by design into every aspect ot [the] operation”
Dr. Cavoukian isn’t the only member of staff that recently resigned over privacy concerns. Saadia Muzaffar, a member of the project’s digital strategy advisory panel, also resigned due to the company’s lack addressing privacy issues raised by members of the team. According to Muzaffar:
“The most recent roundtable in August displayed a blatant disregard for resident concerns about data and digital infrastructure.”
What’s so Concerning About Smart Cities?
The concept of Smart Cities seems enticing. However, we still don’t have the proper regulations and tech to guarantee the safety of wide-scaled data collection.
Smart Cities are based on gathering resident data to formulate new tech-based solutions to their every-day problems. The scope of this data, however, is alarming. Toronto’s Smart City, for example, will have cameras, sensors, and other monitoring devices in physical locations throughout the district. This means that citizens of Quayside will have to deal with both online and offline monitoring. To date, there is no way to manage such large amounts of data while maintaining the privacy of the users.
According to Privacy International, Smart Cities may look “good on paper”, but they are nothing more than an “increasingly surveilled space”. In fact, many experts already say that Smart Cities are the death of privacy.
For now, Toronto citizens may have to look to sources other than their government if they want a way to protect their privacy. Tools like VPNs can really make a difference with how your data and traffic is collected and monitored online. Torontonians, do check out this detailed article on the best VPNs you can get for your city.
Toronto’s Smart City – Final Thoughts
So, what do you think about Toronto’s Smart City? Would you live in a district that runs on collecting any bit of data it can on you? Personally, I think that we should be trying to fix the privacy concerns we have online before we shift the problem to our physical lives. As important as technology and progress are, we need to start valuing the people whose problems the tech is supposed to fix more.