Google's move off our screens and into our physical environments has picked up steam - just as new controversies about the tech giant surface.
Last week, Google announced that its affiliate Sidewalk Labs had entered into a partnership with the Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan (Sidewalk Infrastructure Partners) to develop "technology-enabled infrastructure" throughout North America. Google is apparently not waiting for its proposed Toronto "test-bed" to be approved to move further into our infrastructure, utilities and physical environment.
But communities organizing around the impact of big tech are talking to one another.
Over the summer, several groups dealing with Google in their own communities have supported the call to #BlockSidewalk, including RethinkLink in New York, Silicon Valley Rising in San Jose, Digital Commonwealth Alliance in Portland and the F#$&*Off Google movement based in Berlin.
The announcement of the partnership comes as new crises have further shaken public faith in the tech giant. For example:
- Google agreed to pay $170 million fine to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission after regulators said its video site, YouTube, had "knowingly and illegally harvested personal information from children and used it to profit by targeting them with ads," in violation of the U.S. Children's Online Privacy Protection Act.
- Ireland's Data Protection Commissioner received new allegations that Google breached European data protection laws by "secretly sharing users' personal data with advertisers."
- Alphabet chair Eric Schmidt was met by protests delivering a keynote speech at Stanford, with Google employees, activists and activists criticizing "Schmidt’s acceptance of censorship in China and his handling of sexual misconduct allegations at Google."
We are excited to see many more Toronto residents and organizations publicly voicing concern over Google's/Sidewalk's plans for Toronto's waterfront as we head into the fall. If you have initiatives you'd like us to share, let us know: blocksidewalk.ca/contact
SAVE THE DATE:
Wednesday, September 25: Friends of Canadian Broadcasting: Screening of "Digital Disconnect," followed by panel discussion. 7-9 PM, Revue Cinema
Tuesday, October 1: Good Jobs for All forum/panel: "Update on Google’s plan for our waterfront … and what it means for the future of our city." 5:30-8:30, 25 Cecil St.
Outreach: Thanks for all who have volunteered to participate in outreach to city councillors! If you would like to join in, let us know: blocksidewalk.ca/contact.
It's been a great few weeks for critical journalism on Sidewalk/Google/Alphabet. Some highlights:
Bianca Wylie, "The trouble with (and power of) Sidewalk's silence on 12." Biancawylie.com, August 25, 2019.
Bijan Stephen, "Youtube says it won't negotiate with Youtubers union," The Verge, August 26, 2019.
Blayne Haggart, "Liveblog review of Sidewalk Labs' Master Innovation and Development Plan," Blayne Haggart's Orangespace, August 27, 2019. ** Note: this is the entire blog captured on one saveable/searchable page
Miriam Gottfried, "Alphabet dips its toe into infrastructure investing." Wall St. Journal, August 29, 2019.
Greg Benzinger, "Google workers move to form a union amid employee discord over treatment." Washington Post, August 30, 2019.
Gabrielle M. Rejouis, "Why is it OK for employers to constantly surveil workers?" Slate, September 2, 2019.
Natasha Singer and Kate Conger, "Google is fined $170 million for violating children's privacy on Youtube," New York Times, September 4, 2019.
"What does Google really want from Toronto? 18 big thinkers take a critical look at the Sidewalk plan." Toronto Life, September 4, 2019. See especially:
- "The Backstory," by Jason Mcbride
- "Toronto is surveillance capitalism's new frontier," Shoshana Zuboff
- "A smart city should serve its users, not mine their data," Cory Doctorow
- "The Sidewalk Labs deal is unconstitutional," Michael Bryant
- "Toronto needs to maintain control of its transit planning," Gord Perks
- "Sidewalk's affordable housing plan isn't really affordable," Jennifer Keesmat
- "Corporations should not be controlling our city-building," Bianca Wylie
"How algorithms create a digital underclass," CBC Radio, September 4, 2019.
Adi Robertson, "Google employees and critics protest Eric Schmidt's keynote at Stanford AI conference," MSN News, September 4, 2019.
Natasha Bernal, "Google accused of secretly feeding personal data to advertisers." AFP, September 4, 2019.
Jared Linzon, "How Toronto's locals soured on Alphabet's neighbourhood of the future." Fast Company, September 6, 2019.