New York City is rolling out a new public Wi-Fi service over the course of 2016 that promises to bring a fast, free internet connection to the millions of residents and tourists throughout the Big Apple. But it might come with “strings attached,” according to a local civil rights group.
The New York Civil Liberties Union warned in a statement Wednesday that LinkNYC, the name of the open internet initiative, doesn’t provide adequate data protection. Users, including non-New Yorkers who connect to LinkNYC while they’re in town for a visit, could risk having their data retained indefinitely. That’s a great way to be victimized in a data breach, or become the unwitting subject of police surveillance.
“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 Wednesday. “Free public Wi-Fi can be an invaluable resource for this city, but New Yorkers need to know there are too many strings attached.”
Dozens of other U.S. cities — including Houston, Tx., Santa Clara, Calif., Greensboro, N.C. and a number of smaller towns and municipalities — are also offering free Internet access.