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Google Quits Major Project

An ambitious smart city project funded by Google’s sister firm Sidewalk Labs has been scrapped.

The project aimed to track the mobility patterns of the US city of Portland and the data would be used to make policy decisions about where to build bike lanes, road repairs and frequency of bus services.

Google shelved the project amidst controversy after it was scrapped by spin-off company Replica.

Replica was unwilling to share data to the level of detail requested by the city of Portland, the company told the BBC.

“At Replica, we believe better insights should not come at the cost of personal privacy. We were not willing to compromise on our privacy principles, which frustrated our Portland Metro client and ultimately led to an early end to the project,” Replica said.

Alphabet Inc-owned Sidewalk Labs started testing location data in Portland in May 2019, using non-identifiable mobile location data to track movements.


However, the project was ditched recently due to “data disputes and damaged trust”, RedTailMedia reports.

Similar disputes regarding lack of transparency and data collection were at the heart of another major smart city project slated for Toronto, which was also scrapped.

The vision was for a tech city, with autonomous cars and heated sidewalks.

There has been debate over whether cities should be inking deals with huge corporations such as Alphabet Inc – which is the parent company of Google – due to big tech privacy concerns.

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