Virgin Media changes small print in tube Wi-Fi Service after being accused of playing Big Brother

Virgin Media has altered the terms and conditions governing its new Wi-Fi service on the London Underground after fears were articulated about the potentially risky wording of the policy.

The Evening Standard first drew attention to the contentious passage, leading Virgin to take immediate action as concern grew that the media provider had given itself the power to invasively monitor online activities, including the right to read passengers' emails.

The offending language read: "With your permission, we may monitor email and internet communications, including without limitation, any content or material transmitted over the service."

Public discontent, including in political circles, peaked after Virgin confirmed that use the service itself would amount to consent being given.

"This is incredibly disturbing. It looks like a surveillance society being created on the Underground. The internet should be about access for all, not creating Big Brother on the Tube," said Robert Halfon, the Tory MP for Harlow.

Since the row erupted, Virgin has been at pains to try and distance itself from accusations of snooping, claiming it never intended to track passengers' Internet communications and that the controversial clause was simply included to fulfil the company's legal responsibilities, such as enabling it to block child pornography.

"We are not monitoring how individuals use our Wi-Fi service and have clarified to make this clear. We block illegal or harmful content in line with our legal and regulatory obligations," a Virgin Media spokesperson said.

Explicit references to emails have now been removed, with the passage amended to read: "We reserve the right to monitor and control data volume and/or types of traffic transmitted via the services."

The change was welcomed by civil liberties groups, with Nick Pickles of Big Brother Watch congratulating Virgin for its decisive move.

"I'm please Virgin have moved quickly to address this serious privacy issue. The public should be able to use Wi-Fi without fear of their use and emails being monitored," he commented.

The arrival of Wi-Fi connectivity on the London Underground has been a hot topic recently, with ITProPortal devoting considerable coverage to ongoing digital developments on London's main transport system.