In a case of interesting timing, as Portland’s history with Google Fiber heads toward its denouement, news of Alphabet’s — Google’s parent company — Sidewalk Labs is just starting to build.
In Portland, the project uses Replica, an anonymized means of tracking individuals. Or as, Redtail describes it:
Replica uses deidentified mobile location data gleaned from mobile app publishers, mobile location data aggregators and telcos. It’s been less-reported that, in order to help municipalities understand how different types of people travel, and gauge transportation impacts on specific demographics such as people of color or other marginalized groups, the company layers in demographic information from census data to build simulated personas. It might also add in credit bureau data to reveal income levels.
But do folks actually know about this level of tracking? According to GeekWire, it’s debatable.
Whether Portland city residents are aware of and understand the Replica project is questionable. When asked about government outreach involving Replica, PBOT pointed to the City Council’s public hearing on the issue and a Civic Data Forum hosted in January by Smart City PDX, the city’s group overseeing emerging tech projects in Portland. That event was intended to “foster engagement with and outreach to diverse stakeholders in the community impacted by data collection,” according to the Smart City PDX website.
I wasn’t tracking on this. At all. And that’s primarily the reason that prompted me to write this post. To help raise the visibility of the project. So that you were aware of it. Or better aware of it.
For more information, read the GeekWire and Redtail articles from Kate Kaye.
As a reporter who has covered data issues for years, I understand Portland's work w #SidewalkLabs is not inherently bad. However, there's reason this co is in the spotlight, and reason city governments need to be better at awareness and citizen engagement https://t.co/2vkexbDQjr
— Kate Kaye (@KateKayeReports) May 28, 2019