Gowex is a company based in Spain that provides free public wifi networks around the world. They have been in the news lately because they are just about to launch a network in New York City that includes 2,000 new hotspots. Gowex will service both high-traffic and lesser-known parts of the five boroughs. This is in addition to the free public wifi networks they’ve already set up in 80 other cities around the world.
Gowex thought it would be a good idea to cover not only outdoor hotspots, but buildings as well. In order to increase their revenue, they plan to partner with the businesses in these buildings. This will allow these businesses to entice hotspot users with special deals, as well as connect with and share information with other users on the same network.
Sounds pretty cool, right?
Making Public WiFi Even More Insecure
Gowex is calling this new venture We2, and claims that it will create a social network with those businesses and people physically around you.
So what is the problem?
For starters, you have to share your personal data with the businesses that Gowex has partnered with in order to use the public wifi network. While it is unclear what information they want to access, it’s probably safe to assume that this would be personally identifiable information, as well as location information.
Gowex says that users will be able to preserve their privacy, but give few details about how this will work.
In addition, Gowex says that you will be able to share photos and other files on your computer with other users on the same network. This sounds a lot like file sharing, and the danger with file sharing is that hackers will be able to use this to sneak into your computer and access your personal files and private information.
We already know that public wifi is dangerously insecure. Are you sure that you want to give up more of your personal information just to be able to use it?
The Next New Normal
To be fair, Gowex is not the only company to try something like this. Facebook and Cisco systems are doing something similar where you have to share your demographic information in order to sign into their public wifi networks.
As the saying goes, there is no such thing as a free lunch. This may turn out to be the same for public wifi. Businesses are trying to find ways to get something back from you for something they used to give you for free.
We should be wary of this. Companies already know an alarming amount of information about us.
Do we really want to give them even more?