Not so private policy

Posted 01 May 2017

LinkNYC’s new privacy policy is a wolf in sheep’s clothing

On March 17th LinkNYC issued a long-overdue update to its privacy policy, a full year after the New York Civil Liberties Union wrote an open letter demanding clarification in relation to flagrant privacy infringements in the original.

The new privacy policy falls far short of making us feel safe on our streets. After reviewing the policy changes, Rethink LinkNYC believes that this cosmetic update is designed to reassure the public that LinkNYC is taking privacy concerns seriously, when in fact the opposite is true, that we remain dangerously exposed.

Even the best privacy policy is worthless without oversight or accountability. We therefore demand a citizen-run governance processes to enforce compliance. This is a prime example of something that the NYC Privacy Board could oversee. Until this is in place, LinkNYC kiosk construction needs to be immediately halted.

The LinkNYC policy can be updated at any time. Instead, however, its permanence should be explicitly stated in the program’s charter. And, even with decent privacy policies in place, in the past few years we have learned about countless data breaches and gross violations, such as AT&T selling customer data to law enforcement.

You can review the old LinkNYC privacy policy on the Internet Archive - You can also review the differences between the old and the new policies:

Rethink Link is in the process of closely analyzing the differences between the two texts and assembling our critiques of the new policy as annotations on top of the policy itself: Log in to to join the conversation!

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On Monday April 24th the New York City Council conducted an oversight hearing on the Privacy of City Data (00:34:19):

James Vacca (Chair, NYC Committee on Technology): Do you see areas of privacy that you should be strengthening?

Anne M. Roest (Commissioner of NYC Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications (DoITT)): No we don’t. We are certainly open to comments and concerns that people have, but again, we believe that the privacy policy we have for link is as strong as any; we haven’t seen any stronger privacy policies.

Commissioner Roest—The Mayor’s Office has issued guidelines for the Internet of Things -, which are far more stringent and respectful of citizen data than the brand new LinkNYC policy. These proposed IoT guidelines commit “to being open and transparent about the “who, what, where, when, why and how” of data collection, transmission, processing and use.”

Are you truly open to hearing our concerns? Stronger privacy policies are necessary, but not sufficient. We need to reverse this reckless endangerment of our Fourth Amendment right to privacy by stopping this Orwellian nightmare.