WiFi data collection pilot

TfL has partnered with Virgin Media to bring WiFi access to 250 London Underground stations to provide customers with internet access. Find out more about station WiFi.

We are running a WiFi connection data collection pilot between 21 November and 19 December as WiFi data has the potential to provide us with a far better understanding of how customers move through stations. We will use the data collected to test how useful it could be to improve our services, provide better travel information and help prioritise investment.

What is WiFi connection data?

When a mobile device such as a smartphone or tablet has WiFi enabled, the device will continually search for a WiFi network to connect to. When searching for a WiFi network, the device sends out a probing request which contains an identifier specific to that device known as a Media Access Control (MAC) address.

If the device finds a WiFi network that is known to the device, it will automatically connect to that network. If the device finds unknown networks it will list these in your device settings so you can decide whether to connect to one of them.

When you are near one of our station WiFi access points and you have WiFi enabled, your device will request to connect which will be received by our WiFi network, even if your device does not subsequently connect.

Collecting these device MAC address connections may help us to better understand customer movements through and between stations, by seeing how long it took for a device to travel between stations, the routes the device takes and waiting times at busy periods. During the 29-day pilot we will collect device MAC addresses at stations within the pilot area listed below. All data collected will be de-personalised (pseudonymised) to ensure TfL is unable to identify any individual.

What about my browsing history?

TfL will not collect any web browsing data, or data from website cookies, generated by your device as part of this pilot.

Why is TfL conducting this pilot?

WiFi data has the potential to provide a greater understanding of crowding and collective travel patterns so we can improve services and information provision for customers. This may enable us to improve the operation, planning and provision of travel information on London Underground. Four potential key benefits have been identified where the analysis of WiFi data could benefit our customers:

  • Customer information

Providing better customer information for journey planning and avoiding congestion.

  • Operations and safety information

Understanding how customers move around stations could help us to manage disruptions and events more effectively, deploy staff to best meet customer needs and ensure a safe environment for all.

  • Transport planning

By better understanding how our customers use the Underground network, we can better plan timetables, station designs and major station upgrades.

  • Prioritise investment

By understanding how customers move through and around stations we may be able increase revenue from companies who advertise on our poster sites and who rent retail units on our property to reinvest in improving your services.

Why use WiFi data?

Although Oyster and Contactless Payment Card ticketing data helps us understand where customers enter and exit the London Underground network (as well as any intermediate validations), it doesn't tell us the platforms and lines customers are using, the stations they interchange at and how they navigate around our stations. Due to the nature of the Tube network, there are many options that customers could take for their journey. Traditional paper surveys are expensive, only provide a snapshot of travel patterns on the day of survey and are unable to provide a continuous flow of information. WiFi data may provide more accurate information to improve our services.

Will TfL be able to identify me?

No, we will not be able to identify any individuals. We are trying to understand how customers as a whole use the network, not how specific individuals use it.

Each MAC address collected during the pilot will be de-personalised (pseudonymised) and encrypted to prevent the identification of the original MAC address and associated device. The data will be stored in a restricted area of a secure server and it will not be linked to any other data.

As TfL will not be able to link this data to any other information about you or your device, you will not receive any information by email, text, push message or any other means, as a result this pilot.

Can I opt out of my data being collected?

Yes. If you do not want TfL to collect your MAC address, you can either turn off WiFi on your device or put the device into airplane mode whilst in one of the 54 London Underground stations included in the pilot (listed below). Once you have left the station simply switch WiFi setting back on or turn off airplane mode to re-enable WiFi connectivity.

Can I request a copy of my data?

As we will not be able to identify the original MAC address because we have de-personalised data, we will not be able to identify you and so cannot provide a copy of the WiFi data generated by your device.

After the pilot

TfL will stop collecting this data at 23:59 on Monday 19 December. We will then analyse the data to test how useful it could be to improve our services, provide better travel information and help prioritise investment.

Once this process is complete, we will be able to decide what to do next and communicate this to our customers.

Stations included in the pilot

All of the stations included in the pilot are listed below:

  • Aldgate
  • Angel
  • Baker Street
  • Bank
  • Belsize Park
  • Blackfriars
  • Borough
  • Camden Town
  • Cannon Street
  • Chalk Farm
  • Chancery Lane
  • Charing Cross
  • Covent Garden
  • Dollis Hill
  • Elephant & Castle
  • Embankment
  • Euston
  • Finchley Road
  • Green Park
  • Holborn
  • Kennington
  • Kentish Town
  • Kilburn
  • King's Cross St. Pancras
  • Lambeth North
  • Leicester Square
  • Liverpool Street
  • London Bridge
  • Mansion House
  • Monument
  • Moorgate
  • Mornington Crescent
  • Neasden
  • Old Street
  • Oval
  • Oxford Circus
  • Piccadilly Circus
  • Regent's Park
  • Russell Square
  • St. James's Park
  • St. Paul's
  • St. John's Wood
  • Stockwell
  • Swiss Cottage
  • Temple
  • Tower Hill
  • Tufnell Park
  • Victoria
  • Warren Street
  • Waterloo
  • Wembley Park
  • West Hampstead
  • Westminster
  • Willesden Green

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