Controversial Data Collection Initiative By Sidewalk Labs Is Now A Company
24 Sep

Being a contentious data-collecting project for city planners, Replica has now turned out to be an official firm. Sidewalk Labs (Alphabet’s city-building incubator) this week verified that the initiative has concluded Series A funding and is now appointing for new jobs in its San Francisco and Kansas City offices.

For municipal planners, Replica will be capable of providing them precious info such as the number of individuals on a local road and what transportation mode they are employing. The project flashes these insights from mobile location info, which has lifted various privacy alarms from critics.

Replica’s co-founder and CEO, Nick Bowden, made an effort to deal with privacy fears in a blog post declaring the spinout. He emphasized that no single consumer’s location info might be identifiable below Replica.

“Replica is not concerned about the movement of people; we are concerned about the communal movement of a specific place. For this purpose, we only begin with info that has been de-recognized. This info is then employed to teach a travel behavior model—essentially, a bunch of laws to show the movement in a specific place,” he claimed.

But others dispute that the mobile phone location data’s sensitivity, when held in opposition to poor track record of Big Tech in defending user privacy, is not precisely an encouraging mixture. Critics claim that location info is simple to re-discover, even if it has already been de-discovered.

On a related note, earlier Sidewalk Labs disclosed its MIDP (Master Innovation and Development Plan) for a planned smart neighborhood on Eastern Waterfront of Toronto. The MIDP is dubbed as a “draft,” but it is the first authorized pitch document that sets out the firm’s dream for the region. It will be examined by Waterfront Toronto, a publicly-supported agency, and eventually, voted on by the Toronto city council and its board by early 2020.

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