In October 2017, Dan Doctoroff, the CEO of Sidewalk Labs, and Will Fleissig, then the CEO of Waterfront Toronto, took to the Toronto Star to talk about a big plan for the Canadian metropolis. Sidewalk Labs, a subsidiary of Alphabet, would build a digitally wired neighborhood of the future on the edge of Lake Ontario. At “Quayside,” data-gathering sensors knitted together with cutting-edge urban design could make congestion, unaffordable housing, and excess emissions things of the past.
The short op-ed stated repeatedly how important the public’s input would be over the coming year of initial project planning, bolstered by a $50 million investment from Sidewalk. “Sidewalk Toronto is about improving people’s lives, not developing technology for technology’s sake,” the CEOs wrote. It was a sweet-sounding introduction. But it set off alarm bells for Bianca Wylie. Its authors seemed to lean on a confusing presumption.