Kystlandet, tourism, travel, Horsens, technology, wifi, mobile, track, tourists, visitors, data, information, visit, Djursland, privacy, Denmark

Danish towns track tourists via wi-fi

Privacy fears arise over a number-crunching project that tracks tourists via their wi-fi usage.

In this increasingly technology-powered era, cities and resorts are keen to know more about how tourists behave, what sites, shops and restaurants they visit and in which order.

Now the tourist organisation and chamber of commerce in the Danish town of Horsens in Jutland has launched a project to collect this data, and the Copenhagen Post report.

There have been 28 sensors in the city centre at work since March 2, monitoring wi-fi signals and the media access control (MAC) address of mobile phones from passers-by up to 20 metres away.

“At the moment we don’t know much about the tourists that visit Horsens for a day or two. We’d like to have better data to understand how they move around the town,” explains Helle Berthold Rosenberg, head of tourism for the Kystlandet region.

Visit Djursland, near Aarhus, has been collecting this kind of data since 2017, based on 26 sensors. Between July and October, 10 million readings were collected from 200,000 visitors.

Privacy fears
To allay privacy fears, data collected will be entered into a hash algorithm that cannot be traced back to MAC addresses, so identifying individuals will not be possible.

But some residents have posted their worries about the scheme on the Facebook page of the Horsens Folkeblad newspaper, some calling it “Big Brother data surveillance”.

For example, Jens Posselt asked: “What guarantee do we have that the information is made anonymous? Who is checking the people collecting it? What business is it really of the shopkeepers in Horsens how people move around?”

But Kystland’s tourism chief responds, “It’s important to emphasise that we can’t see who is moving around where. All the data is anonymous and used for compiling statistics showing movement.”

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