Toronto

Ontario privacy commissioner raises concerns over Sidewalk Labs data proposals

Ontario's privacy commissioner has raised concerns over the management of personal data that would be collected in Toronto's Quayside development by Sidewalk Labs.

Commissioner Brian Beamish says Sidewalk's data governance proposals lack independent oversight

Views of the Port Lands area from Cherry Street, the future home of Sidewalk Labs in Toronto on June 25, 2019. Ontario's information and privacy commissioner is calling on the province to review and modernize its privacy laws to prepare for the 'risks inherent' with smart cities. (Andrew Lahodynskyj/The Canadian Press)

Ontario's privacy commissioner has raised concerns over the management of personal data that would be collected in Toronto's Quayside development by Sidewalk Labs.

Sidewalk Labs, a Google sister company seeking to develop part of the Toronto waterfront into a tech-heavy neighbourhood, has proposed that an independent urban data trust be established to oversee the data collected, among other privacy measures.

Commissioner Brian Beamish says in a letter to Waterfront Toronto that Sidewalk's data governance proposals have a lack of independent public oversight, a cumbersome mandate that overlaps with existing regulators, and not enough of a role for the City of Toronto given its experience of delivering services in the public interest.

He says the provincial government should take the opportunity to modernize laws around data and privacy rather than rely on Sidewalk Labs to take the lead. 

Sidewalk Labs spokeswoman Keerthana Rang said in a statement that the company supports the robust and healthy discussion on privacy and data that its proposal has generated. 

Waterfront Toronto is currently negotiating with Sidewalk Labs on numerous issues about the proposed development including its scale, public transit commitments, who will be the developer, and privacy and data issues, with a set deadline of Oct. 31 to resolve these key concerns before moving on to further public consultations.