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 peoples 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 Sidewalks 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. 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.

Since 2017, Sidewalk has been in negotiations with the government agency Waterfront Toronto to redevelop a lucrative section of the citys derelict eastern waterfront. Both parties have been working toward a development deal ahead of an Oct. 31 vote, which  The Globe reported Tuesday is expected to be on terms that are favourable to Waterfront Toronto. That includes a reduction in the amount of land Sidewalk would have control over, better guarantees for privacy in the neighbourhood and better opportunities for Canadian entities to profit from innovations there.

Sidewalk Labs was announced as a Google sister company in June, 2015, with considerable enthusiasm from Google co-founder Larry Page, and is run by former New York City deputy mayor Dan Doctoroff.

The ideas contained in this 2016 internal paper represent the result of a wide-ranging brainstorming process very early in the company’s history,” Sidewalk spokesperson Keerthana Rang said. “Many, if not most, of the ideas it contains were never under consideration for Toronto or discussed with Waterfront Toronto and governments. The ideas that we are actually proposing – which we believe will achieve a new model of inclusive urban growth that makes housing more affordable for families, creates new jobs for residents, and sets a new standard for a healthier planet “ can all be found at”

Waterfront Toronto, for its part, declined to comment.

The book proposed a community that could house 100,000 people on a site of up to 1,000 acres, and contains case studies for three potential sites in the United States: Detroit, Denver, and Alameda, Calif. It also includes a map with dots detailing many other potential sites for Sidewalks first project, including a dot placed on the shores of Lake Athabasca in northern Saskatchewan.

From the beginning, generating real-estate value was a key consideration for Sidewalk.





Google sister-company Sidewalk has a secret ‘yellow book’ with its plans to reinvent cities, plus possible sites beyond Toronto


Christina Farr @CHRISSYFARR   Jillian D’Onfro  @JILLIANILES


Sidewalk Labs is Alphabet’s project to design a technology-powered modern city.

The company’s founders created a yellow coffee-table book that employees are encouraged to read for inspiration.

The book contains writings about urban planning and possible sites for testing, including Toronto (where Sidewalk is doing its first test), plus Denver, Detroit, and Alameda, California.


Employees at Alphabet’s Sidewalk Labs can find inspiration in a yellow book created by the company’s founders.

The coffee table book is meant to help employees and recruits get up to speed with the company’s vision to redesign a city from the ground up, according to three people who have seen copies. It includes interviews with dozens of forward-thinking academics on every aspect of urban planning, from self-driving cars to garbage delivery, according to two of those people.

It also features theories and ideas for how some key problems might be solved in the future. It also has case studies of other cities that have solved urban planning problems in innovative ways, including in Singapore and Florida.

One of the people described it as a “very pretty” book and more of a “vision plan than a business plan,” making it reminiscent of the little red book that Facebook designed for all its employees.

For example, according to one of the people, there is a suggestion that roads should only be open to self-driving cars during the day. Meanwhile, garbage pickup and deliveries should only be carried out in the very early hours of the morning so they wouldn’t interfere.

The back of the book lists half a dozen cities that could be considered ideal for testing a smart city concept. Among those cities included Toronto, where the group is already working to transform a stretch of blighted waterfront, Denver, Colorado; Detroit, Michigan; and Alameda in the San Francisco Bay Area, which is a residential area buttressed by acres of empty land that was previously a naval base. It’s unknown whether Sidewalk is actively considering expanding its efforts beyond Toronto.

These sites were specifically chosen because they meet a core set of criteria, including a vast swath of unused land and locations near lots of business and jobs — not in a remote rural area. Some of these geographies are being actively pursued as potential sites for development, the people said, while others are more of a proof of concept.

Part of the book’s content was used on Sidewalk’s website, to publicize its plans in Toronto or add to its blog, the people said.

Sidewalk Labs was founded in 2015 as an independent subsidiary within Google holding-company Alphabet, with a mandate to use technology to fix many of the problems facing cities today. It’s led by CEO Dan Doctoroff, who was the deputy mayor of New York City under Michael Bloomberg from 2002 through 2008, then became the CEO of Bloomberg LP through 2014. The company’s first project was a set of public Wi-Fi kiosks in New York City, before it launched the Toronto smart city project in October 2017.

Sidewalk benefits from close ties to other Alphabet groups including the self-driving car project, Waymo. It has also spun out but continues to partner with , and a developer platform called Coord.

Sidewalk declined to comment.



Sidewalk Labs’ Smart Cities Will Create A For-Profit Social Credit System That Controls Judges And Police

Published: November 5, 2019

Smart city surveillance, is much worse than anyone could have imagined.

Two years ago, I revealed how a CIA “signature school” was installing thousands of CCTV cameras and microphones in smart cities, but Sidewalk Labs wants to take public surveillance to a whole new level.

The Globe And Mail revealed that Sidewalk Labs “Yellow Book,” a guidebook designed to help Google employees build a smart city from the ground up, would give their employees control of public services.

Yellow Book describes how Google plans to turn at least four major cities in North America into Sidewalk Labs smart cities.

“The book proposed a community that could house 100,000 people on a site of up to 1,000 acres, and contains case studies for three potential sites in the United States: Detroit, Denver, and Alameda, Calif. It also includes a map with dots detailing many other potential sites for Sidewalk’s first project, including a dot placed on the shores of Lake Athabasca in northern Saskatchewan.”

The fourth area, Toronto’s waterfront, has received lots of criticism from privacy experts. With some going so far as to call it “surveillance capitalism.”

“The smart city project on the Toronto waterfront is the most highly evolved version to date of … surveillance capitalism” US venture capitalist Roger McNamee wrote to the city council, suggesting Google will use “algorithms to nudge human behavior” in ways to “favor its business.” (To join the campaign against Sidewalk Toronto click here.)

The Yellow Book allegedly reveals how Google wants to control city services like Disney World does in Florida.

“Sidewalk will require tax and financing authority to finance and provide services, including the ability to impose, capture and reinvest property taxes,” the book said. The company would also create and control its own public services, including charter schools, special transit systems and a private road infrastructure.”

Sidewalk Labs wants to control the police and justice system

The Globe and Mail also revealed that Sidewalk Labs wants to control a cities’ police department and justice system.

“(Sidewalk notes it would ask for local policing powers similar to those granted to universities) and the possibility of an alternative approach to jail, using data from so-called root-cause assessment tools. This would guide officials in determining a response when someone is arrested, such as sending someone to a substance abuse center.”

People could literally be arrested by Sidewalk Lab’s police and and sentenced by their judges.

Sidewalk Lab’s police could use “unique data identifiers” to track anyone they want.

“Early on, the company notes that a Sidewalk neighborhood would collect real-time position data for all entities – including people. The company would also collect a historical record of where things have been and “about where they are going. Furthermore, unique data identifiers would be generated for every person, business or object registered in the district, helping devices communicate with each other.”

Google’s “SensorVault” already gives police a disturbing amount of personal information about a person’s cellphone.

The data Google is turning over to law enforcement is so precise that one deputy police chief said it “shows the whole pattern of life.”

The Globe and Mail also revealed that Sidewalk Labs’ smart cities could use a tiered (social credit) level of services system that rewards certain people while punishing those who wish to remain anonymous.

“People choosing to share in-home fire safety sensor data could receive advice on health and safety related to air quality, or provide additional information to first responders in case of an emergency. Those choosing to remain anonymous would not be able to access all of the area’s services: Automated taxi services would not be available to anonymous users, and some merchants might be unable to accept cash, the book warns.”

Forcing people to give up their privacy to receive health and safety advice, emergency services and forcing them to use credit cards is just one more example of smart city “comply or deny” mentality that wants to know everything about everyone.

Google’s Sidewalk Labs turns smart cities into a for-profit social credit system.

Harvard University professor Shoshana Zuboff said, “Sidewalk Labs was like a for-profit China that would use digital infrastructure to modify and direct social and political behavior.”

If you combine a corporate run police department and justice system with real-time position data, CCTV cameras, social media monitoring, Stingray devices, SensorVault and a tiered social credit system it doesn’t take a privacy expert to see just how dangerous smart city surveillance really is.

Smart cities should really be called “comply or deny cities” because corporations will force people to modify their social and political behavior or they will be denied public services, just like China does.