Social Wi-Fi: Innovative Or Invasive? - InformationWeek

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Social Wi-Fi: Innovative Or Invasive?

Social Wi-Fi asks retail customers to trade social login credentials for free wireless access. Is this a good deal?

Many retailers offer Wi-Fi to attract and retain customers. Now some retailers hope to get more from wireless networking via Social Wi-Fi, in which customers get free connectivity by logging in to the retailer's network using their credentials from a social network account, such as Facebook.

The user gets free wireless connectivity. The retailer gets access to customer data for marketing purposes. For example, the retailer could use the data to tailor offers to the customer, such as an in-store coupon for a favorite brand.

Ryan Adzima, senior wireless engineer at General Datatech, spoke with TechnologyAdvice host Clark Buckner about Social Wi-Fi and its implications for both customers and retailers.

Adzima will present the session “The Social Wi-Fi Goldmine: Should You Be Digging?” at Interop New York.

Social Wi-Fi makes it very easy for consumers to connect to the Internet. And because the venue can track a user’s device, the retailer can remember the user’s login so they won’t have to constantly and manually connect to Wi-Fi.

Users may also appreciate that in exchange for some personal information, they may enjoy benefits such as in-store offers and discounts, or ads that are customized to match their interests.

[Register now for Interop New York. Use Discount Code BPIWSEP for $200 off the current price of Total Access, Conference, and 2-Day Workshop Passes. Or register for a free Expo Pass.]

Of course, while customers might be willing to part with social network credentials, Adzima notes they should be aware of just what happens. For one, the moment customers click OK, they risk allowing a company unfettered access to their social profiles. Companies may gather additional information, such as a customer’s maiden name, in order to build detailed profiles.

Once information is stored in a company’s system, it stays there, even if an end user changes or updates his or her social media accounts. And retailers might resell the data they collect to other retailers or marketing companies.

And while retailers might let customers know what will happen to their data via a Terms of Service agreement, it’s rare that a customer will bother to read it.

It’s also not clear who’s responsible for protecting information gathered via Social Wi-Fi. Adzima thinks consumers are responsible for how they use and distribute their own information.

However, and more importantly, Adzima believes that there must be more education for consumers in terms of existing problems, potential dangers, and who’s using what information and precisely how they’re using it. This responsibility to educate consumers should fall on the providers, said Adzima. He also believes providers should form an initiative to protect consumers and their data.

For customers who might be intrigued by Social Wi-Fi but reluctant to give up a lot of personal data, Adzima recommends that people should, at the very least, read the Terms of Service before handing over credentials. It’s also possible to create a dummy account that doesn’t actually contain real information.

To learn more about Social Wi-Fi, you can hear the full interview below.


The interview was conducted by Clark Buckner from, which provides coverage on cloud-based EMR platforms, chiropractic EHR software, practice management software and much more. Also be sure to check out the Tech Conference Calendar.

Clark Buckner is a content marketer and new media strategist podcasting about technology and entrepreneurship at He enjoys the tech conference scene and discovering innovative ways to create new opportunities from emerging technologies. View Full Bio

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User Rank: Apprentice
9/29/2014 | 8:50:56 PM
Issues are indoor cellular connectivity, data plan costs, mobile phone behaviors
The construction of many stores makes cellular reception difficult, if not impossible, forcing many shoppers into the retailer's Wi-Fi whether they like it or not. Others would rather use free WiFi where available rather than spend their data allowances (this should be less of a factor ad mobile plan data prices decline). On the third hand, current mobile OSes always keep an ear out for a Wi-Fi signal and connect, even if the device owner tries to turn off all Wi-Fi from the settings and advanced settings menus. (This has cost me connectivity so many times on Kit Kat that it's not funny.) In short, customers may be completely without choice if they need to stay connected while shopping.
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