Privacy Battle Brewing: Are LinkNYC Kiosks Surveillance Devices?
In 2016 LinkNYC began deploying free public Wi-Fi kiosks throughout the city.
The kiosks made news when people began using the public web browsers to watch pornography, and CityBridge the private consortium administering LinkNYC limited the browsers, and made other changes to limit how LinkNYC would store personal browser history, time spent on a particular website, and lacked clarity about how LinkNYC would handle government demands for user data, among others issues.
But now there’s a new battle brewing. It seems that each of the LinkNYC kiosks has front-facing cameras.
Starting on a number of blocks on the Upper West Side, an unknown number of digital protesters has begun to adhere yellow post-it-notes onto the Kiosks, effectively blocking the camera’s view.
Then, late a night, a van marked LinkNYC drives up Broadway were a worker with a long stick with a scraper clears the Post-its. But within days, the Post-Its return.
The skirmish over the cameras may have been going on for some time, and it’s unclear how widespread the action is, or if there is an organization behind disabling the cameras.
We’ve reached out to LinkNYC and EFF to get any additional details about the LinkNYC cameras and the ongoing blockage campaign.
Updated (2) : EFF responded with this statement:
A spokesperson for LinkNYC responded: “All Links are visited and cleaned twice a week as part of maintaining the network. This is not a widespread issue.”
And NYCLU responded to a request for comment about the cameras being obscured, said: “We appreciate that the city responded to the issues we raised about LinkNYC kiosks and improved privacy protections in their policy. Yet, so long as kiosks capture vast amounts of information about public and private life, we remain concerned for New Yorkers’ privacy.”