Royal Parks covertly tracks visitors via mobile phone data
In 2015, the Royal Parks conducted a covert study of visitors to London's Hyde Park using anonymised mobile phone signals provided by the network operator EE to analyse footfall. During the study, which was conducted via government-funded Future Cities Catapult, the Royal Parks also had access to aggregated age and gender data, creating a detailed picture of how different people used the park over the period of about a year. The study also showed the percentage of EE subscribers who visited from various boroughs, towns, and cities.
The data was provided after a four-week delay. However, the Royal Parks and FCC expressed the hope that location data could inform policing at large events, tailor park amenities, and protect the park's ecology. With government funding at an all-time low but the number of visitors doubling to 77 million in the previous ten years, the deal with FCC is one of a number of initiatives to help the parks find ways to raise new revenues. As users shift to over-the-top services like Skype and WhatsApp, mobile network operators are also seeking to find new revenue sources.
Writer: Oscar Williams
People must know
People must be able to know what data is being generated by devices, the networks and platforms we use, and the infrastructure within which devices become embedded. People should be able to know and ultimately determine the manner of processing.
Data should be protected
Data should be protected from access by persons who are not the user.
Limit data analysis by design
As nearly every human interaction now generates some form of data, systems should be designed to limit the invasiveness of data analysis by all parties in the transaction and networking.
Control over intelligence
Individuals should have control over the data generated about their activities, conduct, devices, and interactions, and be able to determine who is gaining this intelligence and how it is to be used.
Identities under our control
Individuals must be able to selectively disclose their identity, generate new identities, pseudonyms, and/or remain anonymous.