Will GAFAM get their hands on our cities? Illustrative photo.
Will GAFAM get their hands on our cities? Illustrative photo. (GETTY IMAGES)

What a city governed by GAFAM would look like. Amazon, Google, Apple: all come out as big winners of the pandemic, with turnover inflated by the crisis. Will they also get their hands on our cities? Decryption with Cécile Maisonneuve.

franceinfo: Will my city tomorrow be governed by a tech giant?

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Cécile Maisonneuve: So, yes, it’s true, the kings of social distancing that are the digital giants have allowed us, urban, to bear to live in cities shut down. Not so sure as long as they get their hands on the city. Because the crisis also sounded the death knell for Google’s first urban project in Toronto. On a brownfield site in the capital of Ontario, Canada, Sidewalk Labs, the subsidiary of Alphabet, Google’s parent company, has been fighting for two years to build nothing more or less than the city, I quote, “the smartest in the world”. We were going to see what we were going to see: in a city made hyper-efficient with the amount of data collected in public space, at home, on your phones, we could travel by bicycle, live in wooden skyscrapers and have it delivered by drone.

But won’t this type of project led by the digital giants come back to the fore, after the crisis?

If Google argued the crisis to abandon its project, the reality is more complicated than that. The people who blocked Google in Toronto are the locals themselves. Because when they wanted to know how the protection of their personal data would be ensured, where they would be stored, the answers they had did not reassure them. In the city of GAFAM, data governance is the sinews of war. But it requires confidence to be accepted. The confidence was not there. We have seen this in France with the Stop-COVID application, the use of potentially invasive privacy technologies in public space is causing a lot of concern.

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And yet Google, Apple, Amazon, we use them every day in our urban lives …

Yes, and it is not about to stop because the services they offer us have become essential. We are contradictory in our relationships with technologies. If we believe that they bring us well-being, we accept them. Finally, those who will give the keys to the city to the GAFAMs, it is you, it is me, it is us, and no one else!

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