Sidewalk Toronto wants independent trust to control data collected in Quayside

Quayside Sidewalk Toronto

In a Medium post, Sidewalk Labs head of data governance Alyssa Harvey Dawson shared an update addressing concerns with how data will be used in its planned Toronto Quayside development.

Sidewalk Labs plans to release a draft of its Master Innovation and Development Plan for the development in early 2019.

 
In the post, Dawson shared a document forming the basis of an upcoming presentation to Waterfront Toronto’s Digital Strategy Advisory Panel on Thursday. “No one has a right to own information collected from Quayside’s physical environment — including Sidewalk Labs. Instead, this ‘urban data’ should be under the control of an independent Civic Data Trust,” she writes.

The document says that the independent entity would control, manage, and make data considered a public asset publicly available, and create a set of rules applicable to all parties involved in Quayside. A data review board made up of “diverse members” of the community would enforce data collection and use.

“We think the Civic Data Trust should make de-identified data freely and publicly available and maintain a public registry (online and easily searchable) of all devices that collect urban data,” Dawson writes.

Sidewalk Labs also wants to undergo publicly auditable assessments for public and private digital services before data is collected, referred to as a Responsible Data Impact Assessment with the Data Trust (RDIA). The RDIAs will look at the purpose for any proposal to collect urban data, the sources of data required, the potential impact on individuals or a community, and an analysis of any benefits and risks. “Simply put, RDIAs help ensure that no entity collects urban data just for data’s sake. It must have a beneficial public purpose,” Dawson said.

The post comes amid several high-profile criticisms of the project.

 
Dawson notes that while Sidewalk Labs will build digital infrastructure like internet connectivity, it “does not preclude others from deploying technology that improves on, competes with, or replaces them.”

The post comes amid several high-profile criticisms of the project. TechGirls Canada and Tech Reset founder Saadia Muzaffar resigned from Sidewalk Labs’ advisory board, expressing “profound concern” in a letter obtained by The Canadian Press and The Globe and Mail.

“The most recent roundtable in August displayed a blatant disregard for resident concerns about data and digital infrastructure. Time was spent instead talking about buildings made out of wood and the width of one-way streets, things no one has contested or expressed material concern for in this entire process,” Muzaffar said in the letter. Former BlackBerry chair Jim Balsillie also recently wrote a scathing op-ed in the Globe and Mail about the company’s approach to intellectual property on the site.

Sidewalk Labs plans to release a draft of its Master Innovation and Development Plan for the development in early 2019, with a final plan expected to be approved in September.

The full presentation can be accessed here.

Jessica Galang

Jessica Galang

Freelance tech writer. Former BetaKit News Editor.