City of Ottawa announces data-sharing plan with Google’s Waze app

Editor's Note

A Waze spokesperson sent an update regarding the Waze for Cities program name after the story was initially published.


Ottawa will join other major North American cities in sharing traffic data with Google’s Waze app, the city announced Thursday.

Waze provides drivers with crowd-sourced, real-time information to help avoid construction, accidents and other delays on the road.

Ottawa will join Toronto, Montreal, New York and San Francisco in the Waze for Cities program. A release states that with city data fed directly into the program, Waze will provide Ottawa-based users with a “more comprehensive” picture of road closures and detours. The exchange goes both ways, with the Silicon Valley company also sharing data to inform the city of any incidents on Ottawa roads.

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The Waze partnership is presented as a new initiative for Ottawa’s Smart City strategy, which seeks to combine public data and connected technologies to improve municipal services. The city officially put its Smart City 2.0 plan into effect in 2017.

Privacy observers have raised red flags about the data collection concerns inherent to many smart city initiatives, including sharing that information with private companies. Sidewalk Labs, a Google sister company, has been the subject of immense scrutiny for its plans to build a smart neighbourhood on the Toronto waterfront.

“There’s a whole web of data that is being collected in our cities, and it all raises governance questions, but it doesn’t seem to attract as much attention as it really should,” Teresa Scassa, the Canada Research Chair in Information Law and Privacy at the University of Ottawa, told OBJ earlier this year.

Marc Ren​é de Cotret, who leads Ottawa’s Smart City 2.0 initiative, has said the city consults with privacy law experts to ensure it adheres to proper regulations before enacting such programs.

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