FREE Wi-Fi from Facebook

Interesting thought…. FREE Wi-Fi from Facebook? There are over a BILLION people with Facebook accounts and Facebook wants to interact with all of them.

Would you check in on Facebook in exchange for free Wi-Fi at a hotel, restaurant, retailer or your Doctor’s office? That’s the pitch Facebook has cooked up to hook its social network into companies big and small.

Here’s potentially the next big security / privacy intrusion. Facebook wants businesses to provide FREE Wi-Fi to their customers as long as the customer checks in using their Facebook credentials.

When customers check in to use a business Wi-Fi, their friends can discover the business by seeing the check in on their news feed. After checking in, people will be asked if they also want to like the business page so you can continue to connect with them on Facebook

For Facebook, the Wi-Fi-with-check-in initiative is part of a broader plan to attack the local market by encouraging merchants to set up and maintain Pages on the social network. Participating merchants will get additional distribution with each check-in, receiving exposure that could help bring in more customers or inspire more “likes.” They’ll also benefit from aggregate, anonymous demographic data such as age, gender, and interests on customers who sign-in to Facebook Wi-Fi, and can then use that data for targeting purposes in whatever Facebook advertising campaigns they run.

In essence, Facebook, which is not profiting directly from any revenue share through the partnership, hopes to attract more merchants that go on to buy ads. The idea is also to become a formidable player in local search, an area where everyone from Google and Yahoo to Yelp and Foursquare are competing for attention and advertising dollars.

This would appear to be a good thing for business owners but what does the consumer get out of it? Not much beyond the Wi-Fi access except perhaps that it’s a real time report of where a person is at any moment in time.

A friend of ours recently “checked in via Facebook” to use the FREE Wi-Fi at a car dealer and didn’t realize how that information would be used. All of a sudden, he got a text message from another friend asking – “hey… are you looking for a new car?”

Let’s take this a bit further – how about your doctor or dentist office offering the same Facebook Wi-Fi access. (remember Facebook is trying to get EVERY business signed up for this) Now everyone you know on Facebook and their “friends” will know exactly where you are for the next hour or so. Does that thought scare you just a little? It’s like checking into a restaurant while traveling in another state – announcing to the Facebook world that you’re not home – so maybe it’s a good time to come by your house and rattle a door or window.

Whatever the reasoning behind Facebook Wi-Fi, there’s no question that millions of people will find the prospect of free Wi-Fi too good to pass up, which raises a number of privacy issues. What does it mean when you link your Facebook account to your browsing history, especially when merchant and social network would seemingly benefit from knowing more about you?

Social media is getting more intrusive each and every day. It’s up to you and me to protect our privacy and physical location when were out and about on our daily rounds. If a local business offers you FREE Wi-Fi just for logging in with your Facebook account – think twice about it. If you really need Wi-Fi access while you’re sitting in a waiting room somewhere, ask them for their guest access code

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