Wi fi in new york city

ACLU: LinkNYC kiosks need better privacy policy

New Yorkers who have seen the LinkNYC kiosks popping up on sidewalks may be excited about the idea of free Internet access, but they may appreciate the potential risks involved.

The New York chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union has voiced concerns when it comes to the privacy policies for the kiosks, including the amount of information collected on users and how long that information is being stored by CityBridge, the company behind LinkNYC.

LinkNYC’s fact sheet states that the kiosks do come with an encrypted public Wi-Fi service and a “customer-first privacy policy.” However, in order to register to use the service, users must submit their email address and agree to allow CityBridge to collect information on devices used to access the service and clickstream data -- what websites users visit as well as where and how long they spend on certain webpages and what links they click on.

The ACLU said it believes that the amount of information gathered by the network will attract not only hackers who want to steal information, but also law enforcement agencies looking to track a citizen’s whereabouts.

“Free public Wi-Fi can be an invaluable resource for this city, but New Yorkers need to know there are too many strings attached,” NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman said.

The organization also expressed concern over notification policies in the event that the New York Police Department or another government entity wants access to a user’s private information. The current policy states that CityBridge “will take reasonable attempts to notify you of such a request, to the extent possible,” which the NYCLU says fails “provide any assurance to users that they will be notified of government requests for information.”

Additionally, CityBridge’s privacy policy only offers to make “reasonable efforts” to clear out personally identifiable user information, and that will only happen once a user has 12 months of inactivity on the network. That means New Yorkers who use LinkNYC regularly will have their personally identifiable information stored for years and possibly for the rest of their lives, NYCLU said.

About the Author

Derek Major is a former reporter for GCN.

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