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Google's Wi-Fi Plan For San Francisco Stirs Privacy Debate

Privacy advocates have raised concerns over Google's proposed free Wi-Fi service in San Francisco, which would target users with advertising based on their location.

Most troubling is the potential of tracking where people go on the Web based on the user names and passwords they use in signing on to the network. If that information is stored in a database, then government or private lawyers can subpoena it later in criminal or civil matters.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a San Francisco-based privacy group, has submitted to the city guidelines and minimum standards it considers necessary for protecting people's privacy. The recommendations have been taken under advisement, but it's unclear how much impact they will have on negotiations between Google and its partners, and Chris Vein, the head of the city's technology department.

Any deal, however, would ultimately have to be approved by the city's Board of Supervisors.

The EFF has recommended that people be allowed to surf anonymously on the wireless network, which would operate at a less than broadband speed of 300 kilobytes per second. In addition, the group does not want information on users stored in databases long enough to become a potential problem for users.

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