Saadia Muzaffar, founder of TechGirls Canada, has resigned from Sidewalk Toronto — a “smart city” project — over concerns about a Google-owned company which is now involved in the project.
In her resignation letter from the Sidewalk Toronto advisory board, Muzaffar alleged that citizens of Toronto would be disadvantaged by the loss of control over their own data and the infrastructure that holds it.
Donovan Vincent reported on this story in The Toronto Star:
“The most recent public roundtable in August displayed a blatant disregard for resident concerns about data and digital infrastructure,” she said in her letter. Muzaffar said she wants to see the data around Sidewalk Toronto end up in the hands of the City of Toronto.
The plan, which calls for a city of the future featuring data-driven technology to improve the life of residents, has already garnered some controversy over privacy concerns and who will control the data and the “digital infrastructure” generated from the project. “There is nothing innovative about city-building that disenfranchises its residents in insidious ways and robs valuable earnings out of public budgets,” she said in the letter.
In a telephone interview Thursday, Muzaffar said she feels that Waterfront Toronto’s responsibility to the public as guardian in the Sidewalk plan is being undermined by Sidewalk Labs, whose duty is to their shareholders and profits. “Sidewalk is a vendor. You can’t design public policy with a vendor,” she told the Star.