NY Curbed reports that the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) is raising concerns about the city’s free, public Wi-Fi system, Fast Company reports, just a month after program went live from Harlem to Hollis. The NYCLU is questioning whether the old phone booths turned into internet hubs provide New Yorkers with enough privacy and protect their data.
“New Yorkers’ private online activities shouldn’t be used to create a massive database that’s within the ready grasp of the NYPD,” Donna Lieberman, the executive director of the NYCLU said in a release on the organization’s website. “Free public Wi-Fi can be an invaluable resource for this city, but New Yorkers need to know there are too many strings attached.”
The group’s two major concerns are as follows: first, customers are required to provide their email addresses which are then stored in the LinkNYC database along with their search history. The group fears that this could easily be targeted by hackers to extract more personal information.
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Second, the information stored in that database could be used by the NYPD as another form of surveillance.
Spokespersons for both LinkNYC and the Mayor issued statements to Fast Company dismissing NYCLU’s claims. Both parties said they do not store web browsing data, and do not sell users’ private information. Furthermore they said any law enforcement agency like the NYPD would need a subpoena before getting access to LinkNYC‘s data.