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City of London bans smartphone snooping bin trial due to privacy concerns

Could record the movements of and steal data from people passing by
Mon Aug 12 2013, 14:55
Renew London snooping WiFi bins

THE CITY OF LONDON has banned WiFi enabled recycling bins that are being trailed in the region due to their ability to record the movements of and steal data from people passing by.

The 12 bins, which were placed by startup Renew London, were on trial on Cheapside by St Pauls, and featured LCD screens showing adverts as they tracked the movements of over four million people as they passed via their smartphones.

However, trials were suspended today after the local authority called the bins rubbish, flagging concerns to the Information Commissioner's Office and requesting that the snooping bins "should stop immediately".

"We have already asked the firm concerned to stop this data collection immediately and we have also taken the issue to the Information Commissioner's Office," a local authority spokesman said today.

"Irrespective of what's technically possible, anything that happens like this on the streets needs to be done carefully, with the backing of an informed public."

The City of London said that the project "was precipitate and clearly needs much more thought", so needs to stop, even if data collection is anonymised.

We contacted Renew for comment, though at time of publication we hadn't heard anything back.

The bins used Wi-Fi to capture passing smartphones' MAC addresses, then followed their users' movements to see which shops they visited and how long they stayed there to serve targeted adverts.

Renew has been trailing the bins technology over the past year. What's particularly creepy is the tagline on the firm's website, which reads, "Where ever you stand where ever you go; we'll be there". µ


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