Supervisors Delay Vote on WiFi - Will Negotiate for Adequate Privacy and Free Speech Protections

Jul 12, 2007
Nicole A. Ozer

Page Media

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At yesterday's Budget Committee meeting, the San Supervisors delayed voting on the Earthlink/Google contract until July 25. Watch it here.

We were very pleased that Supervisor Peskin announced at the meeting that he is negotiating modifications to the contract, including the provisions related to privacy and free speech protections.

Supervisor Peskin said at yesterday's meeting that the same privacy protections that apply to the Earthlink (fee service) need to be extended to the Google (no fee) service.

Having the same privacy and free speech protections apply to both tiers of service is an important step in the right direction. S etting up a system where if you can pay money, you get some protections, but if you need to use the no-fee service, you pay with your privacy and free speech, would undermine the very goal of the municipal wireless program to provide equal access to the Internet for San Franciscans.

But, extending the current Earthlink provisions to Google will not solve the problem. There are also important modifications that still need to be made to the Earthlink provisions in order to adequately protect privacy and free speech.

As the contract is currently written, both companies can track who you are, what you are looking at online, and where you are looking at it from- with inadequate limitations about how long this information can be kept. See more information here.

We have spent considerable time analyzing the contract, and making concrete recommendations as to both the Earthlink and Google contract language. Before approving any contract, the Supervisors should ensure that these modifications are made.

Earthlink and Google stand to make a substantial profit by providing wireless service to San Francisco. Municipal wireless is expected to be a $1.2 billion industry by 2010 and according to internal Earthlink research, the company expects a return on its Philadelphia wireless program in two years and greater profits in the years to come.

San Francisco community members should not be forced to subsidize company profits with their privacy and free speech rights. It is now up to the Supervisors to ensure that San Francisco is getting a fair deal and make necessary modifications to the contract prior to any approval.

San Francisco Chronicle story here.

Beyond Chron story here.

Washington Post article here.