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In an effort to measure how long it takes travelers to get through security, the Dublin, Ireland airport has been tracking mobile phone data. The airport has installed sensors into the ceiling above the security areas that allow the authority to track the time a mobile phone spends in the area.
By logging the MAC addresses of any mobile phone with Wi-Fi or Bluetooth enabled, the airport management entity believes that it can better manage the security wait times at its airport. Its “Mobile Location Analytics” efforts aim to keep the wait time for security under 30 minutes.
The news of the data tracking was originally reported by Irish newspaper the Independent, and subsequently ignited a bit of a firestorm on blogs and social media. Privacy advocates expressed concern that this tracking activity was not properly disclosed to travelers, and constituted a violation of travelers’ privacy.
In a prepared statement, the DAA emphasized that the data is anonymized and not tied to an individual:
“This is an anonymized service, with the MAC address being used only to identify a device for the purposes of checking queue times and dwell times. No personal information in relation to the identity of the device’s owner or operator is either sought or recorded.”
The fact that this data is freely available to track is also at issue, as consumers have the ability to turn off Wi-Fi and Bluetooth willingly. By turning those broadcast settings on, consumers are effectively allowing themselves to be tracked – yet there is not consent or basic awareness that this technology is being used.