Toronto Metropolitan University
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City of Surveillance? The Implications of Sidewalk Labs’ Resolution to Build a Smart City in Toronto

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posted on 2023-04-18, 14:33 authored by Patil Dadayan

Google’s sister company Sidewalk Labs has proposed to build a smart city on the Eastern end of Toronto’s waterfront. This initiative is the first of its scale in North America. With the creation of a smart city come implications for the technological, political and cultural life of a city, that give Sidewalk Labs unprecedented power in the realm of urban governance. This study aims to examine whether or not Sidewalk Labs is offering a city of surveillance. Building on existing work on the influence of data, big tech and governance, as well as the cultural importance of neighborhoods, it aims to explain the possible outcomes of the decision to adopt such an initiative in a multicultural urban environment. Alongside a review of the literature on surveillance capitalism, governance and modern urban theory, discourse analysis of the recent Master Innovation and Development Plan (MIDP) released was conducted. Analysis of the material demonstrated a possible desire to control and lead, with data as the key instrument granting the tech company power of uncompetitive nature. The results indicate that there could be negative implications associated with the creation of a smart city in Toronto, but are not of unruly scale. On this basis, it is recommended that Canada update its privacy protection laws to include technological advancements of this scale, and require government involvement in the project at every stage.





  • Master of Professional Communication


  • Professional Communication

Granting Institution

Ryerson University

LAC Thesis Type

  • MRP