Mobile Tech

Municipal Wi-Fi Raises Privacy Concerns

Municipal Wi-Fi Raises Privacy Concerns
April 25, 2007 11:19AM

Bookmark and Share
In a study conducted of six proposed municipal Wi-Fi systems in San Francisco, the Electronic Privacy Information Center concluded that only one of the six would adequately protect user privacy, in large part because they did not require users of the system to log in to get access to the Internet.

Neustar, Inc. (NYSE: NSR) is a trusted, neutral provider of real-time information and analysis to the Internet, telecommunications, information services, financial services, retail, media and advertising sectors. Neustar applies its advanced, secure technologies in location, identification, and evaluation to help its customers promote and protect their businesses. More information is available at www.neustar.biz.

The launch Monday of a new "mesh" Wi-Fi system in London City -- the roughly mile-square area of London that houses the bulk of the financial district -- is part of a rapidly accelerating trend in municipal Wi-Fi systems.

The Cloud, for instance, was just recently founded in January 2003, and since then has become one of the leading providers of Wi-Fi service in Europe. The company's Metro Wi-Fi unit is currently involved in developing or operating Wi-Fi systems in more than 30 European cities, and the company has plans to expand across the continent.

Growth of municipal Wi-Fi in the United States has been even more rapid. According to MuniWireless, a team of Netherlands-based municipal Wi-Fi analysts, the United States had more than 300 such projects in place or in various stages of planning by the end of 2006.

Privacy Concerns

Some groups, however, are raising concerns about whether municipal Wi-Fi systems will do an adequate job of protecting the privacy of the millions of people who would be using those systems.

In a study conducted of six proposed municipal Wi-Fi systems in San Francisco, the Electronic Privacy Information Center concluded that only one of the six would adequately protect user privacy, in large part because they did not require users of the system to log in to get access to the Internet.

Four of the remaining five systems (one refused to answer EPIC's questions altogether) all planned to collect user information and monetize it in one fashion or another.

Londoner Issues

Londoners are already among the most-watched people in the world, and the new mesh Wi-Fi network will not make things better. According to The Cloud's UK WLAN Privacy Policy, the company may collect the following information from its Wi-Fi users:

  • Your name; e-mail address; organization name; phone numbers; technical details on your computer or access device; time and date of access; and location of access.
  • Your billing information, transaction, and credit card information.
  • Information regarding your personal or professional interests, demographics, experiences with the services, and contact preferences.

Unless they read that list carefully, users might be particularly surprised to realize that the mesh Wi-Fi system will be able to track their location as they access the system from different nodes. They might also not realize just how valuable that information is to both the system operator and businesses in the area covered by the mesh.

Increasingly, the online world is seeking to join forces with the "real" world through a merger of advertising and location. The idea of always-on, always-available municipal Wi-Fi might be attractive indeed, but there is no question that it will come at a cost to personal privacy.

Tell Us What You Think
Comment:

Name:



 Mobile Tech
1. Apple Smart Watch Patent Surfaces
2. iPhone 6: Bad for Apple Tablet Sales?
3. Nokia X Phones Had Identity Crisis
4. GoTenna: Work-Thru for Dead Zones
5. Microsoft Axes Android Phones




 Most Popular Articles
1. IBM Earmarks $3B for Next-Gen Cloud Computing Chips
2. Microsoft Targets CRM in Government Cloud
3. Amazon Unveils Zocalo for Cloud-Based Collaboration
4. Google CEO: Is the 40-Hour Workweek Really Necessary?
5. IBM Rolling Out Hybrid Cloud Services Based on SoftLayer

Have an informed opinion on this story?
Send a Letter to the Editor.
We want to know what you think.
Send us your Feedback.

 Related Topics  Latest News & Special Reports

  Can One Size Windows OS Fit All?
  BlackBerry BES 10 Now Hosted
  Social Media Haters Speak Up
  Internet of Things Comes to DIYers
  Dropbox for Business Boosts Security

 Technology Marketplace
Big Data
Unlock your enterprise data's potential. Learn how in the research report.
Are you getting everything you can out of your business data?
 
Business Intelligence
Get real-time, cloud-based information services with Neustar.
 
CIO Issues
Secure and retain skilled technology professionals. Learn how.
 
Cloud Computing
Are you getting everything you can out of your business data?
 
Data Storage
Unlock your enterprise data's potential. Learn how in the research report.
 
Enterprise Hardware
Protect your network with APC Smart-UPS battery backup
Cisco UCS Invicta Series flash memory systems
 
Enterprise I.T.
Register for an upcoming ISACA® certification exam today
Secure and retain skilled technology professionals. Learn how.
 
Enterprise Software
Unlock your enterprise data's potential. Learn how in the research report.
 
Hardware
Protect your network with APC Smart-UPS battery backup
Cisco UCS Invicta Series flash memory systems
 
Network Security
Protect your network with APC Smart-UPS battery backup