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'Smart' bins banned from grabbing your data as you pass by

The City of London Corporation has called for Wi-Fi-enabled, data-snaffling bins to stop recording your movements.

Richard Trenholm Former Movie and TV Senior Editor
Richard Trenholm was CNET's film and TV editor, covering the big screen, small screen and streaming. A member of the Film Critic's Circle, he's covered technology and culture from London's tech scene to Europe's refugee camps to the Sundance film festival.
Expertise Films, TV, Movies, Television, Technology
Richard Trenholm
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'Smart bins' are bin and gone. The City of London Corporation has called for Wi-Fi-enabled, data-snaffling 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 are 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.

If your Wi-Fi is on, your MAC address and movements can be tracked by the bins. The data is captured to see which shops you visit and how long you stay there, in order to serve up targeted adverts on screens on the sides of rubbish receptacles.

Collecting anonymous MAC addresses is completely legal, but the bins could be canned if they're deemed to fall under the EU directive that states you have to give your consent for your data to be stored using cookies -- hence those popups you see on every website these days.

Is the city right to impose an adman trashcan ban? Are smart bins a gross invasion of privacy or a harmless bit of advertising fluff? Let me know in the comments, or on our Facebook page.