Monday SF Supervisor Hearing on Muni WiFi
Monday San Francisco Board of Supervisors Hearing on Muni WiFi
WHEN: Monday, May 14, 2007
TIME: 2:00pm (approximate start time)
WHERE: City Hall, Board Chamber, room 250, Budget and Finance Committee
Late breaking news that the Board of Supervisor's Budget Committee will hold a public hearing on Monday afternoon about the Earthlink/Google contract. Agenda here.
Copy of Earthlink/Google contract here.
The ACLU of Northern California strongly supports the growth of Internet access and looks forward to a time when all of San Francisco will be able to utilize the wealth of information available on the Internet. However, none of us should be forced to pay for it with our privacy and free speech rights.
Several provisions of the Earthlink/Google contract should be modified by the Board of Supervisors in order to properly protect privacy and free speech. The proposed changes are modest, but will help to ensure that there are at least some basic protections for privacy and free speech.
Come to the meeting on Monday at 2 p.m. or call your Supervisor, voice you opinion about WiFi, and encourage the Supervisors to make the four modifications to the contract that are detailed below in order to protect privacy and free speech. Much more information about Muni WiFi available here.
What Do Privacy and Free Speech Have to Do With Muni WiFi?
The Internet is a wonderful resource for information. Many of us have turned to the Internet to seek information about sensitive issues that we might not want everyone else to know about- health information, including reproductive health, LGBT issues, or religious or political information that might differ from the prevailing attitude of a community.
The city's contract, as written, undermines the great potential of municipal wireless to increase access to information. Giving Earthlink and Google the power to track who we are, what we are looking at on the Internet, and the location from where we are looking at it from, means that fewer of us will be comfortable using the system. We will always have to stop, think, and worry about where information about us will end up.
The companies want free reign to collect information about us so they can make maximize the profits from targeted advertising and have more data to share and trade with other companies. But, not ensuring that there are some limitations on the collection and storage of such information is very bad for us.
Once Earthlink and Google collect our information, we won't know who will get access to it. Not only will it likely be shared with other companies and used in ways we never intended, but the government can simply ask for our information with a subpoena and get it- warrant requirements do not apply to information held by a third party like Earthlink or Google.
Earthlink and Google are not doing San Francisco a favor by installing a wireless system; they stand to make substantial profits. We should not be paying twice for WiFi- with both our dollars and our privacy and free speech rights. Come to the meeting on Monday, voice your opinions about WiFi, and insist on the modifications to the contract that are detailed below.
Necessary Modifications to Earthlink/Google Contract
1. Currently No Limitations on Tracking Who We Are:
Now: There are currently NO LIMITATIONS in the contract to control what type of personal information can be collected by Earthlink and a nebulous limitation for Google- it can only collect "minimal information." However, what is "minimal" to Google might be extremely different than what is "minimal" to many San Franciscans.
Anonymous and pseudonymous access should be available. At a minimum, the contract must define and limit the amount and type of personal information that can be collected by Earthlink and Google. There is no reason why Earthlink and Google should be allowed to require multiple types of personal information to use the municipal wireless system.
2. Currently No Limitations on Tracking What We Are Looking At:
Now: There are currently NO LIMITATIONS in the contract to limit Earthlink and Google from collecting and storing information about the activities of users. The contract, as written, is akin to someone following you in the library to monitor and record what books you are browsing.
The contract should require that Earthlink and Google ask users for permission (opt-in) before any records are kept about their activities online.
3. Currently No Limitation on Google Tracking Where We Are/Inadequate Earthlink Limitations:
Now: There is currently NO LIMITATION on Google tracking and recording your location when you use the wireless network.
The contract does require Earthlink to give users the option to opt-out of their location information being recorded and tracked for non-network purposes.
The contract should require that Earthlink and Google ask the permission (opt-in) of users before tracking location.
At the very minimum, people using the Google (no fee) service should have the same ability to opt-out as those using the Earthlink (paid service). People should not have to pay for the Google service by allowing the company, and potentially the government, to know their physical whereabouts.
4. Currently Little Limitation on How Long Our Personal Information is Kept:
Now: There is currently NO LIMITATION on how long Google can store any information.
Earthlink can store personal information for as long as it wants- it is only required to purge location information after 60 days.
The contract should require that our personal data- who we are, what we are looking at, and where we are located- be kept only for so long as needed to operate the network, and never more than 60 days.