Transport For London will begin tracking users devices in their latest project

Transport for London announced on the 8th of July that they will be running a pilot project in which users of their Underground (Tube) Wi-Fi service will now be dynamically tracked as they travel through different boroughs.

This data will help TfL to better distinguish which routes are busier than others and also where the majority of passengers from each individual station actually travel to and from. Add to this the fact that TfL claims that they can increase their services due to data that is collected by the program, as it could show that at 8AM every Monday the majority of passengers have to wait 4 minutes for a service which could be rescheduled to arrive when the passengers do, enabling higher efficiency.

Furthermore, the whole process has been classed as safe and anonymous by TfL as they claim that the data that is being harvested is both heavily encrypted and also ‘depersonalised’ once it has been gathered. However, TfL did admit that the data that it collects cannot be 100% anonymous due to the fact that they have to monitor the users as they advance through the network.

Additionally, the information that will be gathered by the TfL during its new data harvesting program will also be shared with the Police and other intelligence agencies in order to aid in investigations relating to crimes within or connected to the London Underground network.

However, there has been a significant amount of individuals across London who have objected to the program and believe that it is immoral to track users of the Underground Network as they go about their daily lives, this however can be easily solved by the user turning off either just their Wi-Fi or their entire device, in order to avoid being tracked and logged into the TfL database. This database will store the harvested information for around 2 years until it is deleted, this is mainly due to the fact that after 2 years the data will be outdated and irrelevant.

Finally, this program shows that technology can help to improve legacy services such as transport, however it may be intrusive in regards to collecting personal data.