London officials call on company to stop using trashcans that track smartphones of nearby pedestrians

City of London officials have told a company to stop their trial of street-side trashcans that track the smartphones of nearby pedestrians and are capable of building a detailed profile of where the smartphone has been in the past.

The technology used sounds a great deal like the systems used to track people in and around retail stores in the United States, a practice which is coming under increased scrutiny as of late. At least the trashcans aren’t using facial recognition, like some mannequins are, right?

The trashcans were part of a program developed by Renew, which involved the distribution of 12 devices featuring LCD advertising screens and technology capable of tracking the unique hardware identifier of every smartphone with Wi-Fi capabilities nearby.

The action from the officials took place after Big Brother Watch raised concerns about the privacy implications following an August 8 report detailing the technology in Quartz.

Renew chief executive Kaveh Memari told the BBC that their machines only recorded “extremely limited, encrypted, aggregated and anonymized data” in order to monitor local foot traffic, similar to the way websites monitor digital traffic.

Memari said that they took the issue to the Information Commissioner’s Office but have “stopped all trials in the meantime.”

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