It's hard not to fall in love with the idea of municipal wireless Internet access. No more trudging around with your laptop looking for hot-spots—you could just sit on a park bench, fire up your computer, and jump online. And what an easy way to erase the digital divide. People who were priced out of Internet access suddenly have a way into the world of the Web.
But if cities aren't careful, their blanket of WiFi coverage could turn oppressive. In comments submitted to the city of San Francisco this week, EFF, the ACLU, and EPIC West warned about the huge privacy implications of major muni WiFi projects. Will users be tracked from session to session, creating an archive of their online activity? Will the WiFi service provider try to commercialize the data? Will the data be protected from interception by others?
As corporations parade flashy muni WiFi proposals in front of city officials, we hope that decision-makers can keep these questions and others in mind. You shouldn't have to sacrifice your privacy rights in order to use the Internet.