Free Wi-Fi! — In the age of the internet, everyone loves to hear these two words. But beware! It might follow you wherever you go, even when you are not connected anymore.
Nowadays, hundreds and thousands of businesses and public spaces offer “free Wi-Fi hotspots.” You can find them in shopping malls, airports, cafes, restaurants, etc. The US has the highest number of such establishments.
However, such free Wi-Fi connections are managed by third-party providers who provide internet connectivity in exchange for your valuable sign-up details.
This information includes your email address, phone number and sometimes, even your social media profile, and other personal information. As reported by PCWorld, whenever users sign up on such a network, all of this information is used to track them.
The creepiest part is that they track millions of users’ location even when they have left the Wi-Fi zone. It fuels America’s rapidly growing location-based Wi-Fi marketing industry.
Majority of us don’t even care to check before accepting the terms and conditions while signing up. There are phrases like “location data, location history, device identifiers, and MAC address” which tells us about their intentions.
Using MAC addresses, location-based marketing hotspot providers can find out where you live, your shopping habits, the places you frequently visit and so on. This data is then sold to ad-agencies and companies that pester you with ads.
While the exact figures on how many people’s data is being collected aren’t available. But undoubtedly, hundreds of millions of people have unknowingly given up their personal information and consent to tracking companies.
Although such companies claim that they anonymize the collected data through hashing to prevent identification. We cannot be entirely sure about it as the policies differ from company to company.