Question: Can we use a Purple Air through a VPN?

stevie is asking a question about air-quality
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by stevie | April 28, 2020 20:45 | #23504

Hi! We're working with a couple community members who are interested in using the Purple Air, but they're concerned that it could be traced to their house through the wifi it's set up with. We figured out how to obscure the location enough so they're comfortable with the tool, but we haven't figured out how to manage this wifi usage issue. Was wondering if anyone has ideas on this? Could a VPN be used to address this concern?

Tagging in @eustatic


Looks like Purple Air connects directly through the WiFi network: . Is it possible to connect a Purple Air through a device running a VPN to a WiFi network?

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If the device connects directly to WiFi, then I think a specially configured VPN router might be the only way to keep it from being able to see location:

But also, if you trust them to not collect even though they technically can, then from their privacy policy:

C. Location Based Information. Use of the PurpleAir services, permits us to collect precise information about the location of your particular device. Location may include but is not limited to background location information between Users. We may use your location information to provide requested location services and to allow tagging of files. You may opt out by changing your geo-location settings consistent with your device protocol.

heh, not exactly sure what they means, here...! but might be something that contacting support could clarify :)

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Hello again, wanted to share a response from our friends at Purple Air::

"Using a VPN has nothing to do with privacy of the sensor ... Use of a VPN is more related to data network security and protecting data transmission from someone listening in on the network you are using. This risk is also somewhat mitigated by the fact that most websites also use https which encrypts data between the browser and the web server.

The sensor privacy subject is rather to do with the map and location information or how we do not share private sensors on the map for the public to see...

There would be no way to trace the sensor back to the house using WiFi. If placing the sensor somewhere nearby is not good enough to protect their privacy, we recommend setting the sensor to "private" so it does not appear on the map for the public. That way, only they can see it - or those they share the link with. In that case, if the link was shared with unintended recipients, the location would be known so that location should still be sufficiently off."

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Hello! By instinct, I was doing what was recommended already. I think it has worked.

We've had experiences where companies will send people to mess up / unplug the sensors, so people are justifiably concerned about achieving as much privacy as possible.

If you saw where people are living, it would make a lot of sense. There are no fences, and the plant workers up on a tower could probably see over a privacy fence and into your front window with a good set of scopes.

There's also the racism factor, people have very different access to and experience with lawyers, and so lack suit as recourse, and feel differently in their ability to call on the police if the company trespasses.

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