Autonomía digital y tecnológica

Código e ideas para una internet distribuida

Linkoteca. Alphabet


“Quayside,” a 12-acre slice of Toronto waterfront in line to be developed by Sidewalk Labs, the urban-tech-focused subsidiary of Google’s parent company Alphabet. Launched in 2015 by its CEO, Dan Doctoroff, and a number of other Michael Bloomberg affiliates, Sidewalk Labs makes much of its urbanist bona fides. The company is now primarily focused on turning the patch of Toronto-owned land into what it calls the “world’s first neighborhood built from the internet up.”

Quayside would test a novel “outcome-based” zoning code focused on limiting things like pollution and noise rather than specific land uses. If it doesn’t bother the neighbors, one might operate a whiskey distillery in the middle of an apartment complex.

a data-harvesting, wifi-beaming “digital layer” that would underpin each proposed facet of Quayside life. According to Sidewalk Labs, this would provide “a single unified source of information about what is going on” to an astonishing level of detail, as well as a centralized platform for efficiently managing it all.

Those residents might not have a choice in how much privacy they give up to call Quayside home, even if they don’t like the terms of use. The same could be said for anyone who uses its public spaces.

Cavoukian was an adviser on the Quayside project, but she resigned after Waterfront Toronto and Sidewalk refused to unilaterally ban participating companies from collecting non-anonymous user data.

Nearly every city-fixing proposal from Sidewalk Labs combines civil engineering with some element of data collection—what the vision document calls “ubiquitous sensing.” Quayside reduces carbon not just via a thermal grid, but by embedding each home and office with Alphabet’s Nest smart thermostats, which use “occupancy sensors” and predictive modeling to autonomously adjust temperatures throughout the day.

The city is literally built to collect data about its residents and visitors, which Cavoukian was clear-eyed about when she signed on to be an adviser. She’s worried about Sidewalk using all these cameras and sensors to track people on an individual level, to create real-life versions of the personal profiles Google already uses to track people online. Without anonymization, she said, a single person’s activities could be connected across multiple sources and varying databases to track his movements over the course of the day.

“I think it’s important to note that this project seeks to accomplish many things,” he said,“including delivering large amounts of affordable housing, a highly sustainable neighborhood, and economic activity and new jobs. All of that needs to happen along with policies that protect the public interest, including with regard to data. But, data is just one piece of this conversation.”

Quayside may very well accomplish these things, remaking the city as we know it and setting precedent for future projects like it. But the controversy has shown that it may need to reimagine not just traffic patterns and thermostats, but a set of rules for data, privacy, and corporate “innovation” in a context that has never existed anywhere else on Earth. Thus far, at least, that’s proved the most difficult project to pull off yet.

The web as a desktop platform

Electron is a framework that allows developers to wrap web code (JavaScript, HTML, and other bits) in a native coating, giving them access to system-level APIs like notifications, file system, and so on, making it simple to deploy on Windows, macOS, Linux and anything else with one language.

Electron today, however, comes with a sizable disadvantage: it’s based on the Chromium browser, which means it’s bundled with an entire instance for each application that uses it on your machine. Having Slack and Chrome open, for example, spawns two isolated Chromium instances, both consuming resources to do much the same thing.

Google is reportedly working on an A.I.-based health and wellness coach.

Thanks to its spectrum of hardware products, Google would have a notable advantage over existing wellness coaching apps. While its coach, as reported, would primarily exist on smartwatches to start, Android Police noted that the company could include a smartphone counterpart as well. The company could also eventually spread it to Google Home or Android TV. The latter is unchartered territory for these kinds of apps, which are typically limited to smartphones and wearables. With availability in the home, lifestyle coaching recommendations could become increasingly contextual and less obtrusive. If you ask for a chicken parmesan dinner recipe, it could offer a healthier alternative instead; or if you’re streaming music at 10 p.m. and have set a goal to get more sleep, perhaps it could interrupt your music playback to remind you start getting ready for bed. A smartwatch or phone could do this too, of course, but by linking up its product ecosystem, Google could deliver helpful notifications in the context that makes the most sense.

Sidewalk Labs says the sensor information would also support long-term planning. The data would fuel a virtual model of Quayside, which urban planners could use to test infrastructure changes quickly, at low cost, and without bothering residents. It could also be stored in a shared repository that entrepreneurs and companies could draw on to make their own products and services for Quayside.

Unsurprisingly for a company spawned, in part, by technologists, Sidewalk thinks of smart cities as being rather like smartphones. It sees itself as a platform provider responsible for offering basic tools (from software that identifies available parking spots to location-based services monitoring the exact position of delivery robots), much as Google does with its smartphone operating system, Android. Details are still under discussion, but Sidewalk plans to let third parties access the data and technologies, just as developers can use Google’s and Apple’s software tools to craft apps.

Though Sidewalk Labs says the data would be used for a community purpose, such as giving transit discounts to low-income residents, regulating building temperatures, and keeping trash cans from overflowing, not everyone is convinced. “There are definitely questions about whether Sidewalk Labs will try to make money by tracking people’s daily interactions,” says David Roberts, who studies cities at the University of Toronto. “What data will be collected, how personal will it be, how will it be used, and who will have access to it?”

Since the beginning of 2017, Android phones have been collecting the addresses of nearby cellular towers—even when location services are disabled—and sending that data back to Google. The result is that Google, the unit of Alphabet behind Android, has access to data about individuals’ locations and their movements that go far beyond a reasonable consumer expectation of privacy.

The section of Google’s privacy policy that covers location sharing says the company will collect location information from devices that use its services, but does not indicate whether it will collect data from Android devices when location services are disabled

Google plans to implant a “Google Campus” in Kreuzberg, Berlin. We, as a decentralized network of people are committed to not letting our beloved city be taken over by these tax-evading criminals who are building a dystopian future.

Google is trying to open a 2500m² “campus” in Kreuzberg to attract, detect and buy profitable companies and ideas.

Sold as a “community” project, in reality it aims at attracting “entrepreneurs” who will increase Google’s profit.

This project will turn the neighborhood into a large-scale laboratory for the deployment of their new invasive technologies.

Instead of a nice friendly “campus” we see a Google farm for harvesting Kreuzberg’s brains and talents, or a Google mine in which ideas and data will be extracted out of Berlin.

a plausible urban future based on cities acting as important sites for ‘data extractivism’ – the conversion of data harvested from individuals into artificial intelligence technologies, allowing companies such as Alphabet, Google’s parent company, to act as providers of sophisticated and comprehensive services. The cities themselves, the project insisted, would get a share of revenue from the data.

La Oficina [Open Data Barcelona], que es parte del Plan de Transformación Digital del Ayuntamiento que dirige la Comisionada de Tecnología e Innovación Digital, Francesca Bria, pretende el gobierno público de los datos en un trabajo en tres líneas: captación y almacenamiento, analítica y predicción, y comunicación y difusión. Es decir, el organismo captará información por sus propios medios y sensores pero también los pedirá a compañías que operan en el entorno urbano (telefónicas, energéticas y otras), los analizará y empleará para hacer con mejor tino sus políticas y los podrá a disposición de la ciudadanía, la universidad o quien los requiera.

Una oficina para “remunicipalizar la información” y convertir los datos en lo que son, un bien común.

[Sidewalk Labs] …el modelo urbanístico de Google no está tan lejos del de Blackstone (recuerdo: uno de los grandes imperios inmobiliarios del mundo) pero suma a éste la apropiación de la información, su gestión y su uso. Es decir, ya no sólo se trata de privatizar el espacio público, sino los datos que se generan en él (y en los espacios privados de cada familia y empresa que habite el barrio).