Loveland’s City Council was treated to a marketing presentation this evening by the company Acyclica suppling the bluetooth receivers for approximately 20 intersections in town which erupted into controversy last month to track mobile devices of people moving throughout the city.
Nothing provided in the presentation contradicted what was reported on this website previously. Contrary to both Loveland Information Officer Tom Hacker’s propaganda press release and his planted story in the Loveland Reporter-Herald, Acyclica confirmed the data collected is being integrated into other databases to increase the information content. For example, in response to Councilman Steve Olsen’s question whether the size of vehicle can be determined, Acyclica confirmed when integrated into other sensors at the same intersection that information is indeed being collected – as is their intent. Compare that to the mantra that the MAC data alone will not provide any identifying information. Of course not ALONE.
Ironically, the background map on the slide presentation showing the traffic patterns collected by Acyclica sensors to explain the technology was downtown Seattle. According to a 2015 articlehttp://crosscut.com/2015/09/seattles-new-technology-tracks-how-we-drive/, regarding Seattle,
“Before the most recent Wi-Fi based system, SDOT deployed license plate and Bluetooth readers to gather information as cars move from one place to the next. But while effective for highways and large scale roads, they left something to be desired at intersections and smaller corridors. The new system will provide a much more detailed picture: while Bluetooth readers capture 5-7 percent of cars passing intersections, the Wi-Fi readers capture nearly 50 percent from cars with smartphones or tablets with Wi-Fi turned on.”
In other words, the technology was ineffective for use in intersections and small corridors like we have in Loveland especially since it was only tracking 5-7 percent of the actual traffic. Expecting an elevated discussion or probing questions regarding the cost versus benefits of accepting the federal grant might be unrealistic as several councilors appeared to be using “WiFi” and “bluetooth” as synonymous terms thus clearly over their heads. We were disappointed by Councilman Jersvig’s contribution that this is already being used in Loveland when he discovered other Acyclica sensors are already deployed. They make many different types of sensors.
One smart move was Loveland City Manager Steve Adam’s decision to keep interim public works directly Jeff Bailey locked in his office and far away from any open microphones. Instead, Assistant City Manager Rod Wensing spoke on behalf of the public works department.
For those who do understand the difference between WiFi and bluetooth, the company’s data safeguard is to assign additional information to each individual MAC (unique identifier of the mobile device) and change the unique identifier every 24 hours as the information is uploaded into the cloud. Curiously, this also contradicts the many previously claimed benefits of the system since it would be impossible to know day to day which road users are new (just passing through the city) and which vehicles are local commuters.
The most important question of whether the raw data (your mobile device’s unique identifier) is deleted permanently or retained was not asked. We suspect the federal government may have some data retention policy (as is often the case) as a condition of the city receiving the grant. Unfortunately, the vendor and staff were so busy trying to knock over some strawman argument set-up by the city’s own Hacker while responding to inane questions such sensitive topics were never touched.