Business are increasingly providing ‘Free’ WiFi services to target you with WiFi marketing

If you asked the average Torontonian on the street, they probably wouldn’t be aware that targeted WiFi marketing is happening. If someone wants to access free WiFi, they skip the fine print, click yes, and quickly go online to check how many ‘likes’ they got on their post. Free WiFi, is just that … its free isn’t it?

Well the answer is yes and no. As mobile technology improves and the line between digital and traditional retail worlds continues to blur, business have started to offer free WiFi services as a method of connecting with choosy millennial consumers. The service is free, so long as you grant the provider access to your digital fingerprint so that they can send you targeted and customized WiFi marketing. 

By signing in to a free WiFi service, either through your social media log-in, phone number or email, you’re granting a company the ability collect your data, habits, demographic, likes and dislikes, age, and virtually all other details of your life, analyze it and advertise their products back to you through WiFi marketing. 

For example, by clicking ‘Yes’ to free WiFi, here are some of the terms that you’ve agreed to. 

  • We retain all Personally Identifiable Information and Non-Personally Identifiable Information when you first access the Services (aka WiFi) or the time at which you instruct us in accordance with the terms hereof to remove your Personally Identifiable Information or Non-Personally Identifiable Information.

Hmm … interesting, to be fair they’re giving you the option to have your information deleted, but a little further down in the fine print, they mention that even deleting your data isn’t always possible. 

  • In addition, it may be impossible for us to completely delete all of your information because we periodically backup information.

Okay we get it, they’re collecting our ‘data’, and cant guarantee that that it will ever be deleted, but what exactly are they collecting?

  • We may ask you to provide us with certain personal information about yourself, such as your first and last name, user name, gender, mailing address (including postal code/zip code), email address, telephone number, and date of birth. When you order products or services, we may also ask you to provide us with your credit card number, expiration date and authentication codes or related information.

Okay – so they want to know more about me than the government does when I do my tax return. But surely this is the extent of the digital fingerprint they’ve built on me? right? … well, not exactly. 

  • you hereby grant access to certain information in your Facebook profile, including but not necessarily limited to: basic information including (but not limited to) age, birthdate, name, gender, location, email address; extended profile information including (but not limited to) events, check-ins, “likes”, interests, friends, friends of friends, groups, etc.

It looks like they’re building a pretty good profile of who I am and sharing this ‘data’ with other companies. At the very leas can I assume they’ve at least encrypted the data their sharing with other companies?

  • Unfortunately, no data transmission over the Internet or any wireless network can be guaranteed to be 100% secure.

Wow – no guarantee there either. What about those companies they’re sharing my data with? Presumably the free WiFi service providers are providing us with some level of assurance that their partners are trusted and operate by same level of ‘excellence’ that they do? …. wrong again. 

  • As a result, while we employ commercially reasonable security measures to protect data and seek to partner with companies which do the same, we cannot guarantee the security of any information transmitted through the Services, and are not responsible for the actions of any third parties that may receive any such information.

It looks like what we thought was a ‘free’ WiFi product isn’t free after all. It costs you a fair bit … it costs you your privacy. If you take anything from this blog, it should be that if you are not paying for the product … you are the product.