SF's Vein at center of controversy over Wi-Fi

Google's winning bid to provide Wi-Fi to SF has privacy advocates upset about plans for user tracking, cookies, but SF's tech head says the deal is not yet done.

Chris Vein, San Francisco's executive director of telecommunications and information services, finds himself at the center of a bit of a firestorm over the city's selection of Google and EarthLink to build a broadband Wi-Fi network across the city, the New York Times reports.

At issue are Google's advertising plans, including location tracking of users, and whether the new network will hurt local telecom businesses. role of advertising, the implications of the network on consumer privacy and the effect on telecommunications companies that today sell Internet access in the city.

[E]ven before the city announced the winning bidder, privacy advocates had begun to criticize the Google approach for what they say is its potential to violate consumer privacy. Early last week, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Electronic Privacy Information Council released a joint report calling the EarthLink and Google proposal "privacy-invasive," because it would involve "cookies" that track users from session to session to enable customized delivery of ads.

Vein said that the details haven't been worked out yet, and that he would push for strong privacy controls. "I will be pushing to maintain the privacy and security of citizens as best I can as I put this deal together," he said.

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