Source: Thomson Reuters, May 5

Google’s Sidewalk Labs is facing controversy over its plans to build a high-tech neighbourhood in Canada.

Sidewalk Labs won a bid in 2017 to turn a 12-acre patch of industrial landscape in Quayside, Toronto into a smart neighbourhood, BBC News reports.

The company is collaborating with Waterfront Toronto to transform the neighbourhood’s waterfront area into a mini metropolis.

According to Sidewalk Labs’ website, the neighbourhood would consist of a next-generation transit system that would include buses and rails to improve street safety. The area will include housing and real estate that would have flexible designs that enable multi-purpose usage.

It would also include sustainable design and infrastructure to reduce landfill waste and carbon emissions.

The futuristic neighbourhood would use open digital infrastructure that would collect data on traffic, noise and air quality. This has raised questions about what exactly the data is being gathered for.

The company told the BBC that the sensors wouldn’t be used for monitoring purposes and would instead allow governments to be flexible on how they want the sensors to be used in the neighbourhood.

Privacy advocates and digital rights activists are concerned that the project will increase surveillance and outsource government responsibilities to a private corporation.

They urged the government to stop the redevelopment of the area due to privacy concerns and a lack of transparency from the U.S. based company.

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association has now filed a lawsuit against Waterfront Toronto and the municipal, provincial and federal governments.

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