Wireless Internet is available in most places these days – but it comes at a price!
Wherever you go, most people are glued to their phones, smartwatches, and tablets. Family function? Check. Doctors office? iCheck. Public transport? Double check!! The best things in life are free, so Wi-Fi is definitely one of those . . . right?
Commonly provided in most coffee shops, shopping malls, cafes, airports, even public transport, wireless Internet access allows the general public to roam the internet free of charge. In theory. However, this ‘free’ service isn’t so free as we once thought (or how it’s conveyed!).
Typically, when you want to log into the free service, you give a few personal details and/or accept the ‘terms and conditions.’ Who reads those anyway? Well, maybe we should start! Companies providing the service can collect, store, and analyze users’ valuable personal, locational, and behavioral data.
This practice carries with it poorly appreciated privacy risks and an opaque exchange of valuable data for very little. But, is free public Wi-Fi, or any of these services, really worth it?
How It Got Started
LinkNYC, a service in New York which allowed people to access wireless Internet, began exploring a free public Wi-Fi network back in 2012 to replace its aging public phone system. This system is expected to generate about $500 million in advertising revenue for New York City over the next 12 years from the display of digital ads on the kiosks’ sides and via people’s personal cell phones. The model works by providing free Internet access in exchange for users’ personal and behavioral data, which will then display target ads.
After scrutiny, it becomes evident that it is far from being free! LinkNYC comes with the price of the mandatory collection of sensitive, personal, locational, and behavioral data. With that said, while it may not be costing is dollars and dimes to use this service, it is most definitely not free.
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