Agree to terms: Thousands unknowingly agree to clean toilets for free Wi-Fi

ajc.com

Credit: phive2015

Overage charges for cell phone data usage aren’t cheap, and many people are excited with the prospect of getting free Wi-Fi in shared spaces.

>> Read more trending news

But "free" Wi-Fi is almost never free. Usually, getting access requires accepting some terms and conditions from the provider. But do those agreements say anything out of the ordinary? And does anyone read them before accepting them?

Purple, a British company that provides Wi-Fi services to customers around the world, sought answers to those questions. In a blog post, Purple detailed their findings:  Barely any of the people who agreed to terms and conditions set forth by the company read them -- even when they threatened to make the users clean toilets.

To make their study more fun, Purple added an extra clause, saying, “The user may be required, at Purple’s discretion, to carry out 1,000 hours of community service.” That included tasks ranging from “cleansing local parks of animal waste” and “providing hugs to stray cats and dogs” to “manually relieving sewer blockages” and “scraping chewing gum off the streets.”

Few people acknowledged the clause.

Of 22,000 people who signed up for free Wi-Fi over a two-week period, just one -- that’s 0.000045 percent -- caught the “Community Service Clause” inserted into the agreement.

The CEO of Purple, Gavin Wheeldon, admonished his user base about the findings.
"Wi-Fi users need to read terms when they sign up to access a network," he said. "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."

Read more at Purple.

About the Author