The Canadian Civil Liberties Association is suing Waterfront Toronto and the federal, provincial and municipal governments of Canada over the quayside smart city project which is being developed by Sidewalk Labs, partly owned of course by Google parent company, Alphabet.
At a press conference this week Canadian Civil Liberties Association executive director and general counsel Michael Bryant, said that Waterfront Toronto and the three levels of government had “sold out” citizens’ constitutional rights to freedom from surveillance, we quote “to the global surveillance mammoth of behavioural data collection, Google”.
He said “The Google-Waterfront Toronto deal is invalid and needs to be reset. These agreements are contrary to administrative and constitutional law, and set a terrible precedent for the rest of this country. Unlawful surveillance is wrong whether done by data profiteers or the state. We all deserve better from our federal, provincial and municipal governments”.
Earlier this year, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association wrote an open letter to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Premier of Ontario, Doug Ford, and Mayor of Toronto, John Tory, asking them to “Hit CTRL-ALT-DELETE on Sidewalk Toronto”.
Most recently, in a written statement Brenda McPhail, director of privacy, technology and surveillance at the CCLA, said that the association is not scared of change or innovation and nor is it anti-tech. She was quoted as saying “We are firmly and unapologetically pro-rights and freedoms, and the way this project was conceived puts many of the rights people in Canada value at risk.”
“The problem is, the last year and a half of consultations haven’t been asking whether Torontonians want Google’s sister company, Sidewalk Labs, to create a sensor-laden ’test bed’ on the Waterfront, either in the Quayside Neighbourhood or ultimately across the Portlands. They have just been discussing what it should look like and promising us it will be awesome.”
Waterfront Toronto replied that it had not received a master plan from Sidewalk Labs as yet therefore none of the claims in the Canadian Civil Liberties Association application can be assessed as yet.
Local newspapers added that this development has been beset by controversy in recent months: tech entrepreneur Saadia Muzaffar resigned from the Digital Strategy Advisory Panel of Waterfront Toronto because of concerns around personal data, followed by privacy expert, Ann Cavoukian, from her position as advisor to Sidewalk Labs; in February Canada’s National Observer obtained an internal document which it said “raises new questions” about the transparency of Sidewalks Labs planning process; and earlier this year citizens launched the Block Sidewalk campaign.