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Transport for London will roll out default wi-fi device tracking on the London Underground this summer, following a trial back in 2016.
In a press release announcing the move, TfL writes that “secure, privacy-protected data collection will begin on July 8” — while touting additional services, such as improved alerts about delays and congestion, which it frames as “customer benefits”, as expected to launch “later in the year”.
Services - Passengers - Website/apps - TfL - Data
As well as offering additional alerts-based services to passengers via its own website/apps, TfL says it could incorporate crowding data into its free open-data API — to allow app developers, academics and businesses to expand the utility of the data by baking it into their own products and services.
It’s not all just added utility though; TfL says it will also use the information to enhance its in-station marketing analytics — and, it hopes, top up its revenues — by tracking footfall around ad units and billboards.
Commuters - UK - Capital - Transport - Network
Commuters using the UK capital’s publicly funded transport network who do not want their movements being tracked will have to switch off their wi-fi, or else put their phone in airplane mode when using the network.
To deliver data of the required detail, TfL says detailed digital mapping of all London Underground stations was undertaken to identify where wi-fi routers are located so it can understand how commuters move across the network and through stations.
Signs - Stations - Passengers - Wi-fi - Connection
It says it will erect signs at stations informing passengers that using the wi-fi will result in connection data being collected “to better understand journey patterns and improve our services” — and explaining that to opt out they have to switch off their device’s wi-fi.
Attempts in recent years by smartphone OSes to use MAC address randomization to try to defeat persistent device tracking have been shown to be vulnerable to reverse engineering via flaws in wi-fi...
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