Moscow authorities’ pedestrian surveillance project is under threat

Moscow authorities may abandon an expensive project to track pedestrian movement by MAC addresses of their smartphones, since the update of the iOS and Android operating systems has made it almost impossible to track gadgets, Kommersant newspaper reported on Thursday.

The source of the publication in the mayor’s office explained that in the latest updates of these operating systems, the function of dynamic replacement of MAC addresses is provided, so it will not be possible to get unique phone addresses. “Now our techies are looking for a way out of the situation, trying to bypass the protection of operating systems (OS), but, most likely, the project will be closed,” he concluded.

The update came out a long time ago

As follows from the public procurement website, by December 24 – much ahead of schedule – the contractor had already installed 220 public transport stops and steles capable of collecting MAC addresses to track passenger traffic, having received 62.8 million rubles for the first stage of work. (in total, it was planned to spend 152.9 million rubles on the project). At the same time, iOS and Android updates, which prevent the collection of MAC addresses, were released until December – in September.

As the head of the State Duma Committee on Information Technologies and Communications Alexander Khinshtein noted, the actions of the procurement organizers, who did not take into account the fact of updating the mobile OS, may become a reason for verification.

The customer of the project, the Moscow Traffic Management Center, told the newspaper that it was not aware of the plans to close it, and representatives of the Information Technologies of the Future contractor ignored Kommersant’s request.

Why are MAC addresses needed

The mayor’s office of the capital in October 2020, when it became known about this state purchase, noted that the project for tracking MAC addresses is being created following the example of the experience of Singapore, London and Berlin, and data analysis will help “improve the quality of pedestrian movement and the operation of public transport.”

Experts in an interview with Kommersant noted that MAC addresses are important for targeting advertising to a specific audience, and smartphone manufacturers decided that they can attract customers to large advertisers without intermediaries. By updating their OS and making MAC addresses dynamic, they have closed the targeted advertising market.


Karice Dabule

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