London tosses out Wi-Fi-sniffing 'smart bins'

The rubbish receptacles were all about serving up targeted ads -- a trick that required them to track phone data of passersby.

Renew London smart bins
Renew London says its smart trashcans collected anonymized and aggregated MAC data from passing smartphones. Renew London

" Smart bins " are bin and gone. The City of London Corporation has called for Wi-Fi-enabled, data-sniffing bins to stop recording your movements as you wander the streets.

Twelve recycling "pods" with LCD screens showing adverts have been sniffing out details of your phone as you pass and tracking your subsequent movements. But with the local authority flagging the bins to the Information Commissioner's Office, trials of the technology have been suspended.

The bins were placed by a startup called Renew London on streets around London's Cheapside. According to The Independent, the bins recorded details of a whopping 4,009,676 devices in the pockets of passers-by.

Click here to find out what Renew London CEO Kaveh Memari had to say about the matter on Monday.

Read more of " 'Smart' bins banned from grabbing your data as you pass by " at CNET UK.

About the author

Rich Trenholm is a senior editor at CNET where he covers everything from phones to bionic implants. Based in London since 2007, he has travelled the world seeking out the latest and best consumer technology for your enjoyment.


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