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August 13, 2013

City of London calls for ban on recycling bins collecting smartphone data

Renew London installed its ORB technology to better target advertising.

By CBR Staff Writer

The City of London Corporation has called on the company behind WiFi-enabled recycling bins which track smartphones to turn off the technology.

A dozen of the capital’s Square Mile internet-connected bins fitted with digital screens collected footfall data of phones which connect to their WiFi.

But the City of London has told Renew London, the recycling company behind the bins, to turn off the technology, which was claimed to be being used to target advertisements at people – if a store had the same technology installed and noticed a smartphone owner passing the bin was also a customer, it could place adverts on the bin.

Renew revealed that the bins tracked 4,009,676 devices constituting more than 530,000 unique users.

A spokesman for the City of London said: ‘We have already asked the firm concerned to stop this data collection immediately and we have also taken the issue to the Information Commissioner’s Office.

"Irrespective of what’s technically possible, anything that happens like this on the streets needs to be done carefully, with the backing of an informed public."

The bombproof waste and recycling bins were initially installed as a way of re-introducing waste bins to City streets.

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"This latest development was precipitate and clearly needs much more thought – in the meantime data collection – even if it is anonymised – needs to stop," added the spokesman.

Renew CEO Kaveh Memari said it has disabled the tracking technology for now.

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