Going to Copenhagen? Prepare to be Tracked via Wi-Fi

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It’s a paranoid conspiracy theorist’s dream – well, nightmare, really – come true: officials are tracking the movement of visitors to Copenhagen International Airport in real time using their mobile and WiFi devices.

The New York Times has the story, and despite attempts to paint the whole thing as benign (movements are being tracked as a means to improve the layout of the airport — allegedly), it’s still unsettling to pick up your morning paper and read sentences such as, “On Mr. Cheikh’s laptop, the tracking program showed different colored dots to distinguish arriving from departing passengers.”

The Mr. Cheikh above is Stephane Cheikh, innovation manager for SITA, the aviation communication and technology company that’s behind the new system being used in Copenhagen. SITA has plans — hopes, really —  about duplicating such tracking in airports around the world. The system uses WiFi-enabled devices to estimate the location of the device’s owner to within 10 feet of accuracy; Cheikh estimates that around 20% of air travelers have WiFi enabled devices currently, and expects that number to rise in future. But don’t worry – there’s an upside to this latest Big Brother incursion into your privacy; SITA has also released a smartphone app that will offer location-specific information and shopping deals based upon where you are in the airport at that exact moment. So everyone wins, right?

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