Google-EarthLink get S.F. wireless nod?

A panel has recommended that San Francisco officials choose a proposal from Google and EarthLink to offer free wireless Internet access throughout the city, the Associated Press reported on Wednesday.

The move would clear the way for the city to begin final talks with Google and EarthLink, the report said. Google is proposing a slower, free ad-based service while EarthLink would charge users about $20 a month for a faster speed and no ads.

Neither Google nor city officials could be reached for comment.

Earlier on Wednesday, a report scrutinizing the privacy practices of five of the six bids the city received concluded that the Google-EarthLink bid was among the worst. The privacy comparison analysis was conducted by the Electronic Privacy Information Center and the Electronic Frontier Foundation. The bid from Communications Bridge Global was not included because it did not provide adequate information on privacy practices, the report says.

Both Google's proposed free ad-based service and EarthLink's fee-based premium service "require the user to sign on, thus creating the opportunity for persistent tracking across sessions. The Google advertising supported service would target advertisements to individuals based on their Internet usage and other information," the report says.

"Overall, from the information available, SF Metro Connect's proposal appears to be the most privacy friendly," the report adds.

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