Free WiFi? Think Before You Connect, Here’s Why.

Free Wi-Fi- signs are everywhere today. In a few clicks you can be off your phone’s spinning data wheel and onto a speedy wi-fi connection in the middle of your favorite store or coffee shop – checking competitor’s prices, searching coupons or finding that favorite dress in your size.

Beware, however, that “free” most likely will have a hook.

As you browse that sale rack or look up items on-line, that store is collecting information (from that free wifi connection) about your shopping habits. Through the use of sensors, your device’s MAC address (which identifies your phone) is collected as you shop.

The good news is these stores are most interested in learning how you browse their inventory and the length of time you spend in certain areas of their store. Through the analysis of data collected from your phone, a store can price items, entice you with rewards or move product displays, all based on store traffic and shopper experience.

The collection of your shopping habits is not a bad thing, and as a shopper you can benefit from offers or rewards. But, if this scenario doesn’t sit well with you, there’s an easy work around. Just turn off the Wi-Fi option in settings on your phone before you enter the store. Remember, though, to turn it back on when you get home.