Free WI-FI But is it really free?

You’ve probably had moments where we don’t want to use our own mobile data while out away from home so you find a WI-FI hotspot that’s actually free and connect up to it without a second thought. Sure it’s “Free” but that “Free” actually comes at a price to you.

in 2017 it was announced Sydney Buses would be offering Free Wi-FI. You don’t have to pay to use it (Except for paying the fare to ride the bus so technically not free in sort of a way) and to connect up to the Buses WI-FI you had to download an application called “Catch”. I would link to the application but the website for it is giving me security errors so I won’t do it right now but earlier in the year Sydney Morning Herald found that CATCH TOU (Terms of use) stated that the company “may disclose your personal information to third parties, such as our contractors, advertisers“.

So yes by connecting through WI-FI through the application you were agreeing that CATCH would be able to disclose your personal information to it’s third parties so if you think it’s a good idea to look up naughty things then it’s probably not a good idea to do so.

You might be thinking “Well surely I can avoid it by trying to connect without the application but even if you managed to bypass the application and still connect to the “Free” WI-FI you may still be tracked and may be served your own personal ads as the settings might be also set up from the buses Wi-FI router.

It’s not just CATCH that is doing something like this, the well known shopping centre Westfield does something like this too tho instead of using an application to connect they require your name and email address (Which you should know what they’ll do with this if you sign up to use their WI-FI)  With Westfields WI-FI they can track the WIFI point your connected too, see where you are and see what stores you go into, how long you spend in those stores, what isle you go into and then pass that information on to Scentre Group who will possibly also pass it onto 3rd parties.

Don’t believe the part about the WI-FI Tracking? That is fine and understandable as it may sound very crazy but the image below from their WI-FI Privacy terms says it all.

1J: The URL Visited. They are going to know where you’ve been, how long you’ve been there and where about you went to on that website.  If the website is a shop or online retailer and you are constantly looking up Music CD’s then Westfield knows you are into Music CD’s and can pass that information it’s collected about you to it’s providers who in return can serve advertisements to you. This is all about Money. Westfield isn’t providing Free WI-FI out of the kindness of their heart. There’s profits to be made.

Point 2 sounds a little scary and creepy.

2C “So that we know which pages are popular” this can probably and likely be used against you. Let’s say you like PINK (The Singer) in secrete. Well by using Westfields WIFI and spending a lot of your time on PINK related content they are going to know you like PINK and may serve you PINK related advertisements such as her latest album or tickets to her next show.  Heck they may be even able to build a profile on you and serve you more than PINK advertisements and something that else that your really into.

And Point 2E what Westfield collects on you goes off shore so some place you’ve never been too before will likely know about you if you were to go overseas and connect up to their free WI-FI hotspot.

And this is what you pay for Free WI-FI. You may think it’s all dandy and 100% free but there is a hidden cost that none of these free WI-FI providers are telling you about unless you do your homework or look through the WI-FI’s Terms and conditions as well as privacy policy.  I’m sure when it comes to Free Wi-FI a majority of people connect and don’t give it another thought. By connecting up to that Hotspot your agreeing to let them collect information on you, sell it to their 3rd party partners and serve advertisements on you as well as build a profile of you.  Like the old saying goes, if it’s too good to be true it probably is.

You’re probably best sticking to your mobile data if you don’t want shopping centres and Free WI-FI providers collecting information about you.



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