Soofa Bench Charging Station Collects Data from Devices in Downtown Newmarket

According to a new report from The Star, the Town of Newmarket’s first Soofa bench, a charging station for your devices, has been harvesting the data off user’s smartphones and tablets.

Newmarket got the very first Soofa bench in Ontario back in 2016, and ever since the town has added a total of nine additional charging stations. Residents of Newmarket that are carrying devices that have Wi-Fi enabled will be automatically recognized by the Soofa charging station, regardless of whether the device is attached physically to Soofa with a USB cable.

The charging stations assigns each device a random number, in order to keep the personal information of customers secretive. However, the town is still able to use the information to understand foot traffic patterns. In a statement, Newmarket’s public works deputy director Mark Agnoletto said:

“We (the town) never see the personal information of that device; we can only see that assigned number. The information can help businesses determine what are the best times to be open or we can assess parking lot usage,” Agnoletto said. “We make a lot of decisions right now on perception or data based on a snapshot in time, but this will give us a better understanding of the big picture.”

The town said that they have not seen any push back on the following matter. However, they are suggesting that if anyone wants to opt-out of this data collection they should just turn off their device’s Wi-Fi.