October 31st: What's next for Quayside?

On October 31, Google affiliate Sidewalk Labs was put back in its place.

We are no longer talking about a sprawling 190 acre proposal, a new Waterfront "public administrator" or an "urban data trust." Sidewalk Labs is, more or less, back where they started: proposing a vision for the 12-acre Quayside site.  This outcome required a concerted and sustained effort by civil society - not just a single master negotiator. 

While the October 31 “realignment” seems to have turned the tables and put the tri-government agency back in charge, however, our enthusiasm remains cautious.  We need to see that problematic clauses in the partnership agreement governing the relationship between Sidewalk Labs and Waterfront Toronto (the Plan Development Agreement (PDA)) have been amended or removed. We need to see what plan, exactly, is going forward for further public consultation.

Torontonians should not have had to go to such lengths.  Having witnessed Sidewalk Labs' behaviour over the last two years, we remain convinced this vendor is not the right partner to develop Toronto's waterfront.  Yet company spokespeople have said that Sidewalk Labs needs to scale up beyond Quayside, both to prove its concepts and to make a return on its investment.  Our work is not done.

Read Waterfront Toronto's public statement on the October 31st "realignment" here; read the full text of the amendments to the Project Development Agreement here.



On October 30, while attention was focused on negotiations between Waterfront Toronto and Sidewalk Labs, two Globe and Mail reporters gave us a glimpse of exactly how much further the company wanted to take its proposed test bed city. Sidewalk Labs' 2016 "yellow book," leaked to Globe and Mail, shows us what it could look like if "someone just gave [Alphabet] a city and put us in charge," the wish famously expressed by the then-executive chairman of Sidewalk Labs parent Alphabet in 2017. 

In the words of author Cory Doctorow, "[t]he plan calls for the creation of privately owned and regulated roads, charter schools in place of publicly administered schools, the power to levy and spend property taxes without democratic oversight, a corporate criminal justice system where the cops and judges work for Sidewalk Labs, and totalizing, top-to-bottom, continuous surveillance."


Tom Cardoso, Josh O'Kane, "Sidewalk Labs document reveals company's early vision for data collection, tax powers, criminal justice." Globe and Mail, October 30, 2019. 

Cory Doctorow, "Leaked document reveals that Sidewalk Labs' Toronto plans for private taxation, private roads, charter schools, corporate cops and judges, and punishment for people who choose privacy." BoingBoing, October 30, 2019.

A.J. Diamond, "Sidewalk Labs: Why hand our advantages to a foreign behemoth?" Toronto Star (op-ed), Oct. 30, 2019.

Josh O'Kane, "Waterfront Toronto moving forward on Sidewalk Labs' Smart City, but with limits on scale, data collection." Globe and Mail, October 31, 2019. 

Amanda Roth, "Breaking down the deal between Sidewalk Labs and Waterfront Toronto." The Logic, October 31, 2019

Marco Chown Oved, "How Waterfront Toronto's Stephen Diamond went up against Sidewalk Labs and won." Toronto Star, October 31, 2019.

Tara Deschamps, "Google sister company agrees to scale back controversial Toronto project." The Guardian, October 31, 2019.

Alex Bozikovic, "The Sidewalk Labs-Waterfront Toronto plan shifts power from big tech to government." Globe and Mail, October 31, 2019. 

Catherine McIntyre, "The man who stood up to Sidewalk." The Logic, October 31, 2019

Saadia Muzaffar, "A year of lessons," Medium, November 1, 2019.

James McLeod and Geoff Zochodne, "Sidewalk Labs CEO optimistic - but not certain - that smart city project is still feasible under new terms." Financial Post, October 31, 2019.

Dan Bilefsky, "Toronto's City of Tomorrow is scaled back amid privacy concerns." New York Times, October 31, 2019.

Siobhan O'Flynn, "My warning for Waterfront Toronto on Sidewalk Labs open door to data in the MIDP 'realignment' summary," SiobhanOflynn.com, October 31, 2019.

Josh O'Kane, "New Sidewalk deal strikes better balance on IP and innovation but questions still unanswered, experts say." Globe and Mail, November 1, 2019. 

Geoff Zochodne and James McLeod, "Revised terms of waterfront project take data control out of Sidewalk Labs' hands." Financial Post, November 1, 2019.

Blayne Haggart, "Without whom...," "Waterfront Toronto's letter to Sidewalk Labs," Blayne Haggart's Orangespace, November 1, 2019.

John Lorinc, "Waterfront Toronto's power move on Sidewalk Labs," Spacing, November 1, 2019.

Donovan Vincent, "Sidewalk Labs set to release details of all the data it wants to collect at Quayside." Toronto Star, November 1, 2019.

Megan Simpson, "Dan Doctoroff still believes Sidewalk Labs can build a Smart City." betakit, November 1, 2019.

Shoshanna Saxe and Matti Siemiatycki, "How Toronto reined in Big Tech." New York Times (op-ed), November 1, 2019.

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