The streets of New York City are one step closer to super-fast public Wi-Fi. LinkNYC, a public-private partnership between the city and a consortium of technology companies, has debuted its first two payphone-turned-tech kiosks in Manhattan. These gleaming aluminum “Links,” as they are called, contain Wi-Fi beacons, mobile device chargers and informational tablets that include an app allowing free phone calls to anywhere in the country. The city plans to roll out 500 more of them by July and to have at least 4,550 spread across the five boroughs by 2020.
That arrangement is leading some to raise questions about privacy. Ad space on the Links is so valuable because of the user information (including IP addresses, GPS location and browsing data) that allows advertisers to deliver highly targeted content to passersby. The back end works similarly to ad-targeting algorithms users encounter while surfing the Web.