TfL Wants to Know Where and When You Connect to its Wi-Fi Network

By Aatif Sulleyman on at

Transport for London has worked out how to collect the sweet, sweet data advertisers are always gagging for without bringing the Underground to a literal standstill, and is set to kick off a Wi-Fi connection data-gathering trial next week.

From Monday, TfL will try to figure out the weird ways in which commuters move around stations and switch lines by keeping tabs on where and when they connect to its underground Wi-Fi network. It says that all of the data gathered will be depersonalised and “used to improve services, provide better travel information and help prioritise investment across the Tube network”.

54 stations within zones 1-4 are involved in the trial, which TfL hopes will shed light on how to tackle congestion, disruptions and big events.

“The trial will work by collecting WiFi connection requests from mobile devices as customers pass through stations,” it says. “When a device has WiFi enabled, it will continually search for a WiFi network by sending out a unique identifier -- known as a Media Access Control address -- to nearby routers. The data collected is automatically de-personalised. No browsing data will be collected and TfL will not be able to identify any individuals.

“By understanding how customers move through and around stations, TfL also believes it may be able increase revenue from companies who advertise on poster sites or rent retail units to reinvest in improving services across London.”

To opt out of the trial, all you have to do is brave a Wi-Fi-less commute.