'Transport for London (TfL) has begun to track its passengers' movements across the London Underground network using their phones' Wi-Fi connections.
The new tracking system keeps a log of passengers passing through London's 260+ Wi-Fi enabled stations via their smartphone's unique media access control (MAC) address, a request sent when a device is searching for a Wi-Fi connection.
The information, which TfL claims cannot be used to identify individuals or to harvest their browsing activity, cookies, phone number or whether the Wi-Fi service is used, will be used to provide users with more targeted information to help plan their route and avoid delays as well as for advertising purposes.
"By understanding how many customers we have and how they move around stations (e.g. the total number of unique devices passing through a zone of a station) we will be able to maximise revenue from the companies which advertise on our poster sites and those who rent retail units on our property," the company explained on its website.
Gaining greater understanding into how passengers move through stations will highlight the "effectiveness and accountability of its advertising estate based on actual customer volumes," it said.
"Being able to reliably demonstrate this should improve commercial revenue, which can then be reinvested back into the transport network."
Privacy group Big Brother Watch said people should be "concerned" when devices are monitored without consent.
“The public should be fully informed about what data will be taken from their phones, when and why, and reminded of their ability to prevent this tracking by turning off their Wi-Fi,” it said.'
Read more: TFL is now tracking people who use Tube WiFi to advertise to them
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