City of London asks Renew to stop using bins to collect data on people

Issue gets taken to Information Commissioner's Office

The City of London Corporation has asked a company to stop using its recycling bins to monitor the habits of passers-by through their smartphones.

Renew fitted devices to 12 of its bins as part of a trial project demonstrating the potential of targeted personal advertising. The bombproof bins display digital advertising on an LCD screen in addition to useful information such as Tube updates and weather forecasts.

Renew CEO, Kaveh Memari, told the BBC that the London-based firm had stopped all trials in the meantime.

A spokesperson from the City of London Corporation said: "We have already asked the firm concerned to stop this data collection immediately. We have also taken the issue to the Information Commissioner's Office. Irrespective of what's technically possible, anything that happens like this on the streets needs to be done carefully, with the backing of an informed public."

The 12 bins with the technology record a unique identification number, known as a MAC address, for mobile devices in the vicinity that have Wi-Fi switched on. This enables the Renew bins to monitor data including the "movement, type, direction, and speed of unique devices".

People can opt out by visiting the Presence Orb website which details information on how companies can avoid having the MAC number on their mobile device monitored by their technology.

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