The Hidden Cost of Free Wifi


We are beginning to expect Wi-Fi as a free service wherever we go, but we forget how costly Internet access has become on the carrier side. Cell phone carriers are down to 6 gigs of data per month, and so many new consumers are starting to use wireless networks and reaching their cap very quickly. Bandwidth is expensive, and there is no such thing as a free lunch.

Restaurants and coffee shops offer Wi-Fi because if they do not, many customers will navigate elsewhere. The restaurant may raise prices to cover the expense, or it can accept a free Wi-Fi setup from a sponsoring Internet company, like Facebook or Comcast.

Facebook is teaming up with select businesses to install free Wi-Fi, because they reap the revenue from your data. When you access a Wi-Fi hotspot, you are required to sign off your data privacy. The sponsoring company is free to gather, analyze and sell off your data to other companies. Through the network connection, companies can also deliver cookies to your computer, which help guide targeted ads to you even after you pack up and return to the ‘privacy’ of your own home.

Are Targeted Ads Convenient or Creepy?

User data can be extremely valuable to companies because those companies can analyze the data for purchasing patterns, search activity, location, or even what kind of music you like. They can use their findings to sell you targeted products.

Wi-fi providers also understand intimate details about you that only a friend or loved one would know. Your data gives them an edge in persuading you to try their advertisers. By knowing what you need, what you like, and how much money you have to spend, they can deliver only the most appealing ads, which optimize their advertisers’ money, as well as your time and attention.

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