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New York’s free public Wi-Fi may not be as safe as you think

Will Gleason
Written by
Will Gleason

The crazy-fast, free LinkNYC service that the city’s rolling out over the course of 2016 looks pretty good on paper. The kiosks being installed across the city will bring free wireless internet to locals and tourists, provide outlets for charging devices and provide information on city services. But there might be a bit of a catch. 

The New York Civil Liberties Union released a statement yesterday warning that the service does not provide adequate data protection. That means users could have their data stolen or have their personal information monitored by the police. 

“New Yorkers' private online activities shouldn't be used to create a massive database that's within the ready grasp of the New York City Police Department,” Donna Lieberman, executive director of the NYCLU, said in the statement. “Free public Wi-Fi can be an invaluable resource for this city, but New Yorkers need to know there are too many strings attached.” 

In order to connect to the wireless network, you have to provide your email address and agree to have information collected about what websites you visit and for how long.

UPDATE: After publishing this post, we received the following statement from Mayoral spokesperson Natalie Grybauskas: “New York City and CityBridge have created customer-first privacy protections to ensure our users’ personal information stays that way – personal. We believe our privacy policy is the best way to protect New Yorkers and LinkNYC users while they safely and securely enjoy free superfast Wi-Fi across the five boroughs. We will continue to work to ensure legitimate concerns are addressed.”

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