Sidewalk Labs (Google) document reveals company’s early vision for data collection, tax powers, criminal justice

Tom Cardozo & Josh O’Kane:

A confidential Sidewalk Labs document from 2016 lays out the founding vision of the Google-affiliated development company, which included having the power to levy its own property taxes, track and predict people’s movements and control some public services.

The document, which The Globe and Mail has seen, also describes how people living in a Sidewalk community would interact with and have access to the space around them – an experience based, in part, on how much data they’re willing to share, and which could ultimately be used to reward people for “good behaviour.”

Known internally as the “yellow book,” the document was designed as a pitch book for the company, and predates Sidewalk’s relationship and formal agreements with Toronto by more than a year. Peppered with references to Disney theme parks and noted futurist Buckminster Fuller, it says Sidewalk intended to “overcome cynicism about the future.”

But the 437-page book documents how much private control of city services and city life Google parent company Alphabet Inc.’s leadership envisioned when it created the company, which could soon be entitled to some of the most valuable underdeveloped real estate in North America, estimated by one firm to be worth more than half-a-billion dollars.

Many taxpayer supported K-12 school districts use Google services, including Madison.