Monday, October 6, 2014

Free WiFi hotspot asked for eldest son in the ToS - and users said yes

We all know "no one" reads those lengthy terms of service that often pop up when you install an app or sign up for a service. And if that wasn't clear, an experiment in the UK proved it beyond any doubt.

We've talked about the risks of using a public WiFi network before, and this experiment in the UK (PDF link) showed just that - and more. To access this free internet, people were presented with the usual length "terms of service" they had to agree to in order to get free access. People simply clicked the "agree" without even bothering reading it... Should they have done that, they would certainly find strange things in there, such as agreeing to give away their first born child in exchange for the free internet.

Sure, those would be highly doubtful claims that wouldn't have any legal standing, but who's to say there couldn't be others that would be also undesirable but could hold up in court: for instance, agreeing to have all your traffic monitored. Not that a malicious WiFi hotspot would tell you that, but even if it did, it's kind of horrifying to think most people wouldn't actually bother to notice it.

Yes there's a need to turn the lengthy Terms of Service into something actually readable and useful, instead of the pages long "mambo jambo" of legalese talk with the sole purpose of making people look away; but the key point is: you should really be aware that using any unknown network exposes you to potential risks, and you should treat it as if someone is inspecting and monitoring each and every data packet being sent and received by your devices.

Guess VPN services will be having lots of new customers in the future as users become aware of these potential risks...

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