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City of London calls halt to smartphone tracking bins

City of London calls halt to smartphone tracking bins

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The City of London Corporation has asked a company to stop using recycling bins to track the smartphones of passers-by.

Renew London had fitted devices into 12 “pods”, which feature LCD advertising screens, to collect footfall data by logging nearby phones.

Chief executive Kaveh Memari said the company had “stopped all trials in the meantime”.

The corporation has taken the issue to the Information Commissioner’s Office.

The action follows concerns raised by privacy campaign group Big Brother Watch, after details of the technology used in the bins emerged in the online magazine Quartz.

Mr Memari told the BBC that the devices had only recorded “extremely limited, encrypted, aggregated and anonymised data” and that the current technology was just being used to monitor local footfall, in a similar way as a web page monitors traffic.

He added that more capabilities could be developed in the future, but that the public would be made aware of any changes.

The bins, which are located in the Cheap side area of central London, log the media access control (MAC) address of individual smartphones – a unique identification code carried by all devices that can connect to a network.

A spokesman for the City of London Corporation said: “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.”

Legal ‘grey area’

Mr Memari insisted that the bins were just “glorified people-counters in the street” and that his company held no personal information about the smartphone owners.

While the collection of anonymous data through MAC addresses is legal in the UK, the practice has been described as a “grey area”.

The UK and the EU have strict laws about mining personal data using cookies, which involves effectively installing a small monitoring device on people’s phones or computers, but the process of tracking MAC codes leaves no trace on individuals’ handsets.

Websites or companies wanting to use cookies to tracks users’ habits have to ask for permission. By monitoring MAC addresses, which just keeps a log of each time a wi-fi enabled device connects to another device, they can work around this requirement.

Presence Orb, the company that provides the tracking technology to Renew London, calls its service “a cookie for the real world”.

‘Data and revenue’

Nick Pickles, director of Big Brother Watch, said: “I am pleased the City of London has called a halt to this scheme, but questions need to be asked about how such a blatant attack on people’s privacy was able to occur in the first place.

“Systems like this highlight how technology has made tracking us much easier, and in the rush to generate data and revenue there is not enough of a deterrent for people to stop and ensure that people are asked to give their consent before any data is collected.”

Reacting to the City of London Corporation’s call, an Information Commissioner’s Office spokesperson said: “Any technology that involves the processing of personal information must comply with the Data Protection Act.

“We are aware of the concerns being raised over the use of these bins and will be making inquiries to establish what action, if any, is required.”

By Joe Miller

BBC News

House prices in London are rising by £90 a day but flat or falling in EVERY OTHER major UK city

House prices in London are rising by £90 a day but flat or falling in EVERY OTHER major UK city

London Living 

  • The report from the Land Registry highlights the gulf between London and the rest of the UK
  • In the capital, the average house price has increased by 9.6 per cent
  • Of properties sold over £1m in England and Wales, two-thirds are in London
  • In regional cities such as Birmingham and Liverpool prices have fallen

By BECKY BARROW @ The Daily Mail UK

House prices in London are rising by £90 a day but flat or falling in every other major city in the UK, a report from the Land Registry revealed today.

The report highlights the gulf between the capital’s property market, where prices have reached an all-time high, and the rest of the UK, where they are falling by up to 16.5 per cent a year.

In London, the average home now costs £374,568, having soared by 9.6 per cent over the last year, according to the Land Registry.

House prices in London are rising by £90 a day - where prices have reached an all-time high - but are flat or falling in every other major city in the UKAll-time high: House prices in London are rising by £90 a day but are flat or falling in every other major city in the UK

This is equal to around £90 every single day, including weekends.

In the most exclusive corner of London – the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea – the average property costs £1.1million, up by an eye-watering £120,000 over the last year.

 

Of all the properties sold for more than £1million in England and Wales, around two-thirds are in London.

Around 13 homes every day change hands for more than £1million in the capital, according to the Land Registry, which excludes Scotland.

The Royal Borough of Kensington (pictured) and Chelsea have the average property costs £1.1million, up £120,000 over the last yearCostly corner: The Royal Borough of Kensington (pictured) and Chelsea have an average property price of £1.1million, up £120,000 over the last year

But the rest of the country tells a very different story, fuelling an unprecedented property apartheid between the capital and the rest of the country.

The Land Registry figures show prices have dropped over the last year in the vast majority of urban areas.

Birmingham, Bolton, Bradford, Bury, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Oldham, Salford, Stockport, Wakefield, Wigan and Wolverhampton are all on the casualty list.

For example, house prices in Liverpool have fallen four per cent since last March.

The average home used to be worth £93,514 but it has dropped to just £89,974, a fall of £3,720 or £10 a day.

Overall, the Land Registry said the average house price in England and Wales is £161,793, up 0.1 per cent in March and up 0.9 per cent over the last year.

Outside London, prices are rising in some of the more expensive areas such as Surrey and Windsor and Maidenhead, but falling 16.5 per cent in Middlesbrough.

Peter Rollings, chief executive of the estate agency Marsh & Parsons, said: ‘House price growth in London continues to surge ahead of the rest of the country with the capital continuing to operate in another realm.’

Giles Hannah, managing director of the upmarket estate agency VanHan, said: ‘There is no getting away from the fact that national average indices conceal significant regional differences.

‘London is undoubtedly the big success story and is doing a good job of pulling up the national average.

Casualty list: House prices in Liverpool (pictured) have fallen by four per cent since last March, a fall of £10 a dayCasualty list: House prices in Liverpool (pictured) have fallen by four per cent since last March, a fall of £10 a day while in Manchester housing prices fell by £9.05 a day

‘Its residential sales market remains robust with prices continuing to rise. International buyers, particularly from Asia, are fuelling demand for best in-class properties and are snapping up properties at 10 to 14 per cent discounts as a result of the weakness of sterling compared with their own currencies.’

The majority of people who bought ‘super-prime’ homes in the countryside last year were foreigners, the first time that British buyers have become a minority.

The research, by Knight Frank, looked at the nationality of people who bought country homes for £5million or more last year from the upmarket estate agency In 2010 and 2011, foreigners accounted for around 40 per cent of buyers.

Last year, it tipped over the 50 per cent mark for the first time to reach 55 per cent.

Around one in four buyers came from Russia and its former republics, such as Armenia, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan.

HOW THE GULF WIDENS BETWEEN THE CAPITAL’S PROPERTY MARKET AND THE REST OF THE UK

 

March 2012 March 2013 Daily equivalent
London £341,759 £374,568 +£89.89
Birmingham £112,832 £111,035 -£4.90
Leeds £126,205 £123,658 -£6.97
Liverpool £93,514 £89,974 -£10.19
Manchester £95,341 £92,036 -£9.05
Sheffield £114,531 £114,121 -£1.12

Source: Land Registry

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