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article imageWould you clean toilets for free Wi-Fi? 22,000 unwittingly agreed

By James Walker     Jul 14, 2017 in Technology
Wi-Fi hotspot provider Purple has warned of the dangers of logging onto public networks without first reading the terms and conditions. The company snuck a spoof "community service" clause into its own T&Cs. Amazingly, just one person noticed.
The company devised the stunt in an attempt to educate the public on the dangers of blindly ticking the "I accept" box on Wi-Fi sign-up forms. For two weeks, its own terms and conditions included a clause that allowed it to force users into completing a range of spoof community service actions.
The full statement read as follows:
"The user may be required, at Purple's discretion, to carry out 1,000 hours of community service. This may include cleansing local parks of animal waste, providing hugs to stray cats and dogs, manually relieving sewer blockages, cleaning portable lavatories at local festivals and events, painting snail shells to brighten up their existence and scraping chewing gum off the streets."
Over the course of the experiment, 22,000 users of Purple's Wi-Fi network indicated they "accepted" its terms. The company logged just one incident of a person noticing the inserted clause. The finding confirms what most users and providers have known for years: ticking the checkbox isn't the same as actually accepting the terms.
Purple said it's "unlikely" to ask its customers to complete the community service they signed up for. However, the company warned that people "need to read terms" when they sign up for a new network. The terms and conditions often hide more serious clauses that allow the provider to share your personal data, show you advertisements and track where you login to its hotspots.
"WiFi users need to read terms when they sign up to access a network," said Purple CEO Gavin Wheeldon. "What are they agreeing to, how much data are they sharing, and what license are they giving to providers? Our experiment shows it's all too easy to tick a box and consent to something unfair."
The marketing ploy is all part of Purple's news that it's the first Wi-Fi provider to be compliant with the incoming European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) rules. All European hotspot providers must meet the rules by May 25, 2018.
They give Wi-Fi users more protection by making the extent of allowed data sharing explicit. The legislation also introduces a new "unambiguous consent" clause. It means consumers must have clearly indicated they accept their data may be used for marketing purposes. Judging by the results of Purple's experiment, a single checkbox may no longer fit the bill.
More about Wifi, Privacy, Personal data, Security, wifi hotspots
 
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