NYC Removes Mobile Beacons after BuzzFeed Article Blasts Privacy Issues

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An NYC agency approved hundreds of beacons—devices that can push ads and track mobile devices—to be installed in phone booths around Manhattan. But after BuzzFeed published an article about the beacons yesterday, City Hall promptly requested that they be removed.

As BuzzFeed reported, the beacons were installed without any public notice. This is problematic because of the potential privacy issues. BuzzFeed wrote, “The spread of beacon technology to public spaces could turn any city into a giant matrix of hidden commercialization.” Because the beacons can track the location of the public’s personal mobile devices, privacy advocates are concerned about the lack of transparency.

Hours after BuzzFeed published its article, City Hall requested that the beacons be removed. According to the Wall Street Journal, transparency is critical when using new technologies such as beacons: “It shows that while marketers tend to get jazzed about new advertising technologies, it is important not to creep consumers out or try to dupe them.”

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-Posted by Elizabeth Pace

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