- Veröffentlicht: 01. März 2019
Toronto needs rules and regulations to govern the collection and managing of data from smart cities including the one Sidewalk Labs has in mind, says a city councillor who has launched a plan calling for a new policy.
Councillor Joe Cressy, whose ward covers Quayside — the parcel of land Sidewalk Labs wants to turn into a tech-driven residential neighbourhood complete with sensors and other digital devices — wants to see a citywide public consultation launched to gather input on what the new “data governance principles” should look like and how they can be applied to the Quayside project.
“I think the debates over Quayside have demonstrated the need for the city to lead on the overall file of digital governance, data sovereignty and smart cities,” Cressy told the Star in an exclusive interview Wednesday.
“I see this as a policy framework to set the rules by which data can be collected in the public domain, and how it’s managed and how it’s used,” he added.
His motion will be debated at city council next Tuesday.
Cressy says he’d like to see the final policy formalized and in place by the end of this year or early next year.
At the moment the city has no overall policy regarding data collected by smart city technology.
Fairly new, this technology — intended to make urban life more efficient — includes for example, the Presto card system commuters use to get around on public transit, or sensors that have been used to measure traffic flow through signalled intersections in the King St. pilot project.
Other cities like Markham plan to put sensors on water mains, hydrants, manhole covers and rivers to monitor water levels and water system conditions.
The controversial project being put forward by Manhattan-based Sidewalk Labs — a sister firm of tech giant Google — is the first of its size in Toronto, and hasn’t been approved yet. A draft master plan and final plan are expected later this year.
The biggest worry over smart cities concerns the misuse of data collected about private citizens. To lesson those fears, last year Sidewalk Labs proposed that an independent, third party “civic data trust” be created to oversee and control data gathered at Quayside.
But Cressy said it shouldn’t be up to private companies to lead the way on rules for data collected in the public or private realm.
“We need to be certain that as a city any discussion around digital governance and smart cities is being done on our terms, and based on our public policy objectives. So that we are not endlessly responding to private companies,” he said.
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Cressy’s motion comes days after the Star revealed that Sidewalk is looking at developing its smart city beyond the 12-acre parcel of land at Quayside on Toronto’s waterfront and into the Port Lands.
In his motion Cressy urges city council to direct the city’s chief information officer, city clerk and appropriate city staff to develop the framework and come up with a work plan to implement a new framework bearing in mind city of Toronto principles such as privacy, transparency, accountability, public ownership, protection of the public’s interest, equity and human rights.
“Smart cities are an emerging form of technology and data collection. Done poorly (data) can be misused for private gain and at the expense of citizens. Done properly in a manner that respects privacy and is fully accountable and transparent, it can help to better inform public policy,” he said.
The consultations Cressy is calling for will include a look at what other jurisdictions are doing about rules for smart city data and technology.
Cities around the world have taken up the mantel of thinking about smart cities from a public trust and public interest point of view, Cressy said, adding that Barcelona, with its discussion of citizens’ digital rights and technological sovereignty, is at the forefront of this.
Shauna Brail, an associate professor in University of Toronto’s urban studies program and an expert on tech and innovation, echoed the praise for Barcelona. She noted that Francesca Bria, the city’s chief technology and digital innovation officer, has “really raised the bar” regarding smart city data collection by “setting the standard that cities ought to aspire to especially in terms of concerns about privacy and democracy.”
“She has also been outspoken on the need for government to lead by placing the needs of people first in smart-city decision-making,” Brail added.
Bria launched the Barcelona Digital City Plan, which prioritizes citizens’ digital rights.
Other jurisdictions that have smart city policies and regulations include Singapore, New York and London.
A framework developed by the city to manage how data is collected and used, is “definitely something that cities should be working on,” Brail said.
“It’s in part because of the absence of government initiatives that some of the current controversies (pertaining to Sidewalk Labs) around data collection and management have arisen,” Brail added.
“The motion from Councillor Cressy highlights the fact that municipal policy is required for Torontonians to be comfortable with the use of advanced technologies in urban settings. This is consistent with direction from the Board of Waterfront Toronto . . . ” Kristina Verner, Waterfront Toronto’s vice president of innovation, sustainability and prosperity, said in a statement.
Keerthana Rang, a spokesperson for Sidewalk Labs, said the firm welcomes Cressy’s motion.
“This project has generated an active and healthy public discussion about data privacy, ownership and governance in cities. We hope that our project will set a new standard for responsible data use, as articulated in our data proposals we released last year,” Rang added.
Meanwhile, in other Google-related developments, Colin McKay, head of public policy for Google Canada, told the Star in a statement that the firm has reached out to “several people” at other tech companies in the country about the need to build an organization that could lobby on a national scale and speak to the interests of “businesses that either build their business on top of online platforms, or build platforms themselves.”
“These conversations have always touched upon the need to represent a range of businesses, from startup to established, both Canadian and multinational,” McKay added.
The conversations have not evolved to the point of identifying a policy agenda, he said, but added discussions concerning a national data strategy and the growth of developers of artificial intelligence in Canada are issues that might be relevant to members of a new organization.
Autor(en)/Author(s): Donovan Vincent
Quelle/Source: The Star, 20.02.2019