Tomorrow, Toronto’s City Council will hold a key vote on Sidewalk Labs’s plan to privatize much of the city’s lakeshore in the name of creating a “smart city” owned by Google’s parent company, Alphabet.
Today, the Globe and Mail published a summary of Sidewalk Labs’s leaked “yellow book”, a 2016 document that lays out Sidewalk Labs’s vision for Toronto and future projects in Detroit, Denver, and Alameda.
The plan lays out a corporate-owned city similar to Lake Buena Vista, the privately owned municipality established by the Walt Disney Company on a massive tract of central Florida land that contains the Walt Disney World resort.
The 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.
Torontonians who decline to “share” information with Sidewalk Labs will not receive the same level of services as those who do.
Sidewalk Labs says that the document does not reflect its current ambitions.
Sidewalk Labs previously grossly understated the scope of its ambitions. When we revealed that the company had secretly secured the right to build across virtually the city’s entire waterfront, they lied to us before finally admitting it.
Those choosing to remain anonymous would not be able to access all of the area’s services: Automated taxi services would not be available to anonymous users, and some merchants might be unable to accept cash, the book warns.
The document also describes reputation tools that would lead to a “new currency for community co-operation,” effectively establishing a social credit system. Sidewalk could use these tools to “hold people or businesses accountable” while rewarding good behaviour, such as by rewarding a business’s good customer service with an easier or cheaper renewal process on its licence.
This “accountability system based on personal identity” could also be used to make financial decisions.
“A borrower’s stellar record of past consumer behaviour could make a lender, for instance, more likely to back a risky transaction, perhaps with the interest rates influenced by digital reputation ratings,” it says.
Sidewalk Labs document reveals company’s early plans for data collection, tax powers, criminal justice [Tom Cardoso and Josh O’Kane/Globe and Mail]