Side­walk Labs to weigh sug­ges­tions from panel

Mil­len­nial group spent 3 months in Eu­rope, U.S.

National Post (National Edition) - - FINANCIAL POST - TARA DESCHAMPS

TORONTO • Side­walk Labs is keen on re­view­ing and po­ten­tially im­ple­ment­ing rec­om­men­da­tions made by a panel of mil­len­ni­als for the Al­pha­bet Inc.-backed com­pany’s pro­posed high-tech com­mu­nity in Toronto.

The rec­om­men­da­tions for the smart city be­ing de­vel­oped in con­junc­tion with Water­front Toronto touch on the project’s hous­ing strat­egy, tran­sit poli­cies, de­sign tech­niques and even its data and pri­vacy mea­sures, which have been marred in con­tro­versy for months be­cause crit­ics be­lieve they lack trans­parency and safety.

The project is meant to de­velop a swath of prime Toronto water­front prop­erty and out­fit it with high-tech in­no­va­tions that are ex­pected to change how peo­ple live, work and play within the smart com­mu­nity and be­yond.

The 12 pan­el­lists cho­sen by pub­lic pol­icy and com­mu­nity ad­vo­cates spent three months vis­it­ing Am­s­ter­dam, Copen­hagen, Bos­ton, New York and Malmo, Swe­den to col­lect re­search for the 78-page re­port re­leased Fri­day. They said their goal was to make rec­om­men­da­tions that would cre­ate an “eq­ui­table, in­clu­sive and di­verse neigh­bour­hood” that fos­ters pub­lic trust while pro­tect­ing the pri­vacy of in­di­vid­u­als.

The panel sug­gested project or­ga­niz­ers ad­dress mean­ing­ful con­sent to data col­lec­tion in pub­lic spa­ces, main­tain an open data por­tal to en­cour­age in­no­va­tion for the pub­lic good and cre­ate an in­de­pen­dent data trust to man­age all data col­lected.

Side­walks Labs has said it does not in­tend to own the data it gath­ers in pub­lic spa­ces and in­stead will re­lin­quish con­trol of it to an in­de­pen­dent or­ga­ni­za­tion to be called the Civic Data Trust. The Trust will set the rules around data use, make it open and ac­ces­si­ble to peo­ple while of­fer­ing pri­vacy pro­tec­tion and en­sure that Side­walk Labs does not re­ceive any spe­cial sta­tus or rights when it comes to data ac­cess.

The panel stopped short of rec­om­mend­ing data col­lected through the project be de-iden­ti­fied at source — a re­quest for­mer On­tario pri­vacy com­mis­sioner Ann Cavoukian has long been lob­by­ing for and said Water­front Toronto re­cently “ex­pressed no re­sis­tance” to­wards the pol­icy.

When asked why it wasn’t specif­i­cally touched on, 24-year-old pan­el­list and in­for­ma­tion stud­ies grad­u­ate stu­dent Sharly Chan said “this is just one small piece of the puz­zle.”

“Data is a com­plex is­sue, so we can’t cover ev­ery­thing,” she said. “Cavoukian is ask­ing for data to be dei­den­ti­fied at source and we be­lieve we should def­i­nitely do this, but (our rec­om­men­da­tions) adds a cou­ple of lay­ers to the Civic Data Trust model.”

In an state­ment emailed to The Cana­dian Press, Side­walk Labs’ head of pol­icy and com­mu­ni­ca­tions Micah Lasher said the com­pany was “grate­ful” for the re­port.

“Th­ese rec­om­men­da­tions, which cor­re­spond closely with pub­lic feed­back on the Side­walk Toronto project, will help in­form our work as we draft the Mas­ter In­no­va­tion and Devel­op­ment Plan,” Lasher added.

On the real es­tate front, the panel sug­gested project lead­ers pro­vide af­ford­able hous­ing in per­pe­tu­ity, set am­bi­tious low- and mid-range hous­ing tar­gets and es­tab­lish an af­ford­able hous­ing fund to cham­pion, fi­nance and op­er­ate its de­vel­op­ments.

The pan­el­lists also asked for pub­lic art to be in­fused into the project, out­door spa­ces to be built with max­i­mum us­age for rain and snow and the city’s tran­sit net­work to be ex­panded in a way that en­sures it, cy­cling and walk­ing are more con­ve­nient than driv­ing.

Chan said she isn’t sure how the project lead­ers will go about im­ple­ment­ing her group’s ideas, but said she ex­pects “we will know a lit­tle bit more about that in the fu­ture.”


Side­walks Labs says it may use some rec­om­men­da­tions from a panel of mil­len­ni­als for the Al­pha­bet Inc.-backed com­pany’s pro­posed high-tech com­mu­nity in Toronto.

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