Sidewalk Labs urged to scrub ‘treasure trove’ of personal details from its Toronto smart city

Sidewalk Labs' "307" building in Toronto.Peter J. Thompson/National Post

Alphabet Inc.’s digital city on Toronto’s waterfront is in danger of becoming surveillance city unless data is stripped of personal details from the get go, according to one of the world’s leading privacy experts.

Ann Cavoukian will meet with Waterfront Toronto, the government organization overseeing the project, this week to seek a commitment that information collected will be “de-identified at source.” Cavoukian resigned as an adviser to Sidewalk Labs LLC, a unit of Google parent Alphabet, last month in protest over privacy concerns but said she would consider returning if this principle is ensured.

“If you can’t insist upon data being de-identified at source, you’re going to have a city of surveillance because everybody wants access to personally identifiable data,” Cavoukian said in an interview. “That’s the treasure trove and that’s the exact opposite of what we want.”