Did you just agree to clean a public restroom?
Many people did, according to an Austin company, Purple, that provides Wi-Fi in public places.
Purple, which describes itself as a company that specializes in delivering Wi-Fi solutions that generate real-time analytics and marketing for venues and businesses, said -22,275 people from the U.S. and 31 other countries unwittingly agreed to carry out 1,000 hours of community service in return for free Wi-Fi. Those community service duties included cleaning dirty festival porta-potties, hugging stray cats and painting snails’ shells.
Purple added the ‘joke’ term to the terms and conditions (T&Cs) on its own network of branded hotspots to illustrate the widespread lack of consumer awareness of what they are signing up for when they access free Wi-Fi. According to Purple CEO, Gavin Wheeldon, a shockingly high 99.9 percent of the users tested failed to detect the fake term.
Hidden among Purple’s usual terms and conditions for two weeks was the “Community Service Clause”: “The user may be required, at Purple’s discretion, to carry out 1,000 hours of community service. This may include the following:
• 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
• Scraping chewing gum off the streets”
All users were given the chance to flag the term and win a prize. Only one person out of 22,275 spotted the joke term during the two-week test, which took place June 19 – July 2, 2017.
, “This test was not intended to be mean spirited or poke fun at users. We’re trying to make the point that today more than ever it is critical that consumers read the terms before signing up to use a free Wi-Fi network,” Wheeldon said. “What are they agreeing to, how much of their personal data are they sharing, and what license are they giving to providers to use that data? Our test shows that it’s all too easy for ordinary consumers to tick a box and unwittingly give up their privacy in exchange for free Wi-Fi.”
Purple said it is the first global Wi-Fi provider to comply with the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) – almost a year ahead of the EU’s deadline.
This legislation seeks to harmonize existing data privacy laws across Europe. It is expected to reshape the way organizations approach data privacy not only in the EU but even in the U.S. given the reach of many global organizations today.
Purple believes that one of GDPR’s headline rulings, the introduction of ‘unambiguous consent’ before users’ personal or behavioral data can be used for marketing purposes, is one that should be standardized across the industry on a global basis — sooner than later.