apple billboard toronto

Apple trolls Google with clever billboard near Sidewalk Toronto's headquarters

"We're in the business of staying out of yours. Privacy. That's iPhone."

That's some strong, subtle shade from Apple right there, given the circumstances of where these words appear: On a billboard next to where Sidewalk Labs is keeping its local headquarters.

The iPhone-maker mounted a new, privacy-focused ad campaign in Toronto this week by erecting a series of simple black and white billboards around the city.

They seem innocuous enough, at first glance, especially in light of Apple's recent marketing push in that direction.

Standing proudly next to the waterfront office where Google's sister company is planning out a total takeover of the Port Lands for a high-tech "neighbourhood of the future," however, one takes on a more profound meaning.

Sidewalk Labs has been coming under steady criticism in recent weeks following the launch of a whopping 1,524-page-long Master Innovation and Development Plan (MIDP) plan for what will eventually be known as Quayside.

Concerns are being raised about the project's scale, scope and governance by government officials and Toronto residents alike as the MIDP circulates, but potential privacy violations remain chief among the worries of citizens.

This has been the case for nearly two years, ever since the Alphabet-owned company announced its intentions for Toronto's eastern waterfront.

Even if one were to ignore the timing of Apple's billboard launch, the placement is irrefutably shady; juicy, even, for those who enjoy watching their favourite brands feud. And who doesn't?

"This expertly placed billboard likely wasn't an accident on Apple's part given the privacy concerns surrounding the city’s Quayside development," notes Mobile Syrup's Patrick O'Rourke.

"The project aims to use a wide variety of sensors to measure residents’ movements to learn how to design better streets, transportation and even buildings. The main controversy surrounding the project is who has access and control to this data."

Calling the stunt a "blatant jab at Google," Jesse Hollington writes for iDrop News that "the fact that Sidewalk Labs is affiliated with Google has made many Toronto officials, privacy experts, and other industry analysts nervous as they envision a futuristic city built on 'surveillance capitalism'."

"It's fairly easy to see how Sidewalk's proposed 'surveillance neighbourhood' would be an ideal place for Apple to take a not-so-subtle poke at Google and its entire Alphabet conglomerate," continues Hollington, "by pointing out its own business policies as a stark contrast to what many fear the Google empire is fast becoming."

Lead photo by

Matt Elliott

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