Confirmed: New York City’s Public WiFi Stations Are Spying On You
If there is ever a perfect example of dual-use technology, it is WiFi connectivity. I’ve already covered the mounting evidence that our ubiquitous gadgets and wireless connections are doing irreparable physical harm, especially to the young and to pregnant women, but the concern about surveillance is running a parallel track.
Part of what concerned me the most is that corporations such as Qualcomm would be involved to offset the $200 million dollar cost of implementation. The city of New York would receive half of all profits, thus forming a dangerous merger of corporations with government. Additionally, data would be harvested so that information could be used to direct advertising. Officials claimed that all details collected would be anonymized, but we’ve seen that to be an empty assurance too many times.
Now that the LinkNYC program is approaching the two-year mark, it seems that those early concerns were not mere paranoia. A surprising report from mainstream Huffpost couldn’t ignore new issues that are cropping up across the city.
Apparently, a group of activists has identified the devices to have front-facing cameras, and have taken it upon themselves to cover the cameras with Post-It notes to cover them up. However, a LinkNYC team subsequently began sweeps to remove them … and so a front-lines privacy battle has ensued:
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.
Huffpost reached out to civil liberties organizations EFF and the NYCLU, but both denied knowledge of any sort of activist campaign against the program. However, both reiterated their fundamental concerns about a program which has had little to no input from the public prior to full implementation.
EFF previously has defined the scope of data collection that includes “IP addresses, anonymized MAC addresses, device type, device identifiers, and more…”
Perhaps even more troubling are the parameters of data retention, where the issue of the front-facing cameras becomes truly paramount. According to EFF, data is retained “for up to 60 days. Additionally, the LinkNYC kiosks have cameras that store footage for up to 7 days.”
Moreover, in an era of fusion centers and the overall surveillance matrix that feeds everything into databases designed (supposedly) for anti-terror functions, the NYCLU states their additional concerns:
The fact that privacy concerns clearly were not placed at the top of the list by LinkNYC and the CityBridge private consortium with whom they now partner should speak volumes to New Yorkers as well as any other city that intends to implement citywide “public” WiFi.
This article was originally published by The Activist Post, written by Kevin Samson. In writing this article, he sourced an article from the Huffington Post, which you can view here. View our archive from The Activist Post here.