Reaction to a British company’s plan to use Wi-Fi-enabled recycling bins on London streets to track smart phones and customize display advertising is a warning to organizations pondering use of the technology.
The data doesn’t have a name or address, Renew London’s CEO Kaveh Memari told the Quartz Website, which broke the news last week. But on Monday the city of London demanded the test be stopped and the company complied.
Ever since location data became available in wireless devices organizations have been licking their lips at the possibilities. Why guess at what consumers want when you can track their patterns – where they have been, how long they linger in front or inside a business et cetera.
After all, goes the reasoning, if the user didn’t want to be tracked the location service can be turned off.
Still, it didn’t take long for Memari to issue a statement saying the controversy is overstated. The process was like a Website being able to count how many hits it has had and how many repeat visitors. No personal details were collected. A lot of the complaints were about possibilities for the technology that might be created but didn’t exist now, he added.
“Come the time we discuss creating the future levels of (data) protection, we can move to an improved service where we can bring better content to people,” he added. “In doing so, we may find that the law has not yet fully developed and it is our firm intention to discuss any such progressions publicly first and especially collaborate with privacy groups such as EFF (Electronic Frontiers Foundation) to make sure we lead the charge on this as we are with the implementation of the technology.”