Another Reason To Avoid Free WiFi – What New York City Is Doing

New York City, like a number of other cities, is trying to provide its citizens with free Internet access.  Their solution is to convert pay phones into WiFi hot spots.  New York plans to do this with about 7,500 pay phones across the five boroughs.

Here is the problem, at least as it applies to New York – and probably other cities. They have outsourced the running of these hotspots to a private company – in New York’s case, a company called CityBridge – and that company is collecting the data regarding all of the usage;  what sites you go to, how long you stay on a page and what links you click on.

If you log on to your web mail, for example, they will see your email address, so they know it is you, even if you don’t have to log in to the kiosk, which you do have to do.

What I don’t know is how it handles HTTPS encrypted data.  It could put a decrypting proxy in the middle or it may not be able to see those pages.

LinkNYC says that they will try to wipe out your data, but only if you stop using the system for 12 months.  If you continue to use it, they can keep your data forever.

Mayor de Blasio admitted that this data could be provided to the police, but he said it would require a warrant.

The NY Civil Liberties Union says the wording in the privacy policy is a tad bit loose, leaving people to wonder as to what is going to happen to their data.

As is usually the case, there is no such thing as a free lunch.

On the other hand, your Internet provider at home MAY do the same thing.  Which is why you have to read those damn privacy policies.

Of course, if you use one of those privacy VPNs, assuming you are allowed to, it makes most of this data opaque to the snoopers at the cost of a little speed.



Information for this post came from Fusion.

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