City of London bans data tracking bins

The City of London Corporation has reported Renew, a marketing company operating recycling bins, to the Information Commissioner's Office for collecting data from passing smartphones.

The London-based company, which owns 200 digital screens in the City of London broadcasting breaking news and advertising, used tracking devices hidden in its screens to log WiFi-enabled devices.

The information gathered was then used to create a report every three minutes on the amount of footfall there was on each of the sites.

The City of London Corporation, which looks after the financial and commercial Square Mile, told Renew on Monday to immediately stop the data collection. It has also taken the issue to the ICO.

Kaveh Memari, the chief executive at Renew, said in a statement released after the ban that the process was very much like a website.

Memari said: "You can tell how many hits you have had and evaluate repeat visitors, but we cannot tell anything personal about any of the visitors on the website."

He added only a "limited number of pods" were used and said the Media Access Control addresses (of the devices) were "annonymised and aggregated".

Renew called the technology it used to track the data Orb, and a description of it at the time of launch on Renew's website said it provided "real-time information of flow patterns and behaviour in the City".

Memari said that its use of the Orb technology has now ceased and that tracking is no longer operational on the sites were the technology is installed.

Renew launched the Orb technology in June this year and was trialling the technology at the time of the complaints.

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