Talking tech since 2003

While more and more businesses offer up free Wi-Fi when you drop in for a visit—say, when you’re getting your car’s oil change, or you stop by a café for a cup of coffee—the process of getting your device on the complimentary Wi-Fi can sometimes be more trouble than it’s worth. How aggravating is it to be pleasantly surprised that your phone’s glommed onto the store’s Wi-Fi network, only to have to go through various check-ins through your phone’s web browser? Fortunately, one of the web’s biggest names, Facebook, has teamed up with Cisco to help get users online when they’re out and about without all the fuss.

According to a post on the Verge, the two companies have partnered to launch CMX for Facebook Wi-Fi. To summarize, the initiative will allow Facebook members (so, everyone on planet Earth and a few Martians) to join businesses’ networks by checking in at the location through Facebook. That’s a win for users, considering check-ins through Facebook are far easier to do than agreeing to tiny-print terms of service agreements, finding the right check-box, and hitting submit. And it’s a win for businesses in terms of boosting social media presence as well as gathering consumer data.

Well, maybe it’s a partial win for users. Privacy proponents might say there’s something slightly dodgy about basically handing over a file with your user data to the place you just stopped to get a bacon egg and cheese. I just wanted a sandwich—you don’t need to do a background check on me.

But of course, that’s not the whole story. All the information that’s going from Facebook to, say, H&M (where I’m sitting while I wait for my girlfriend to try on fifty tops) is information that I voluntarily uploaded. Facebook stays free because of the ways it provides businesses with data about its users. If I want to use H&M’s free Wi-Fi while I check my free Facebook account, I suppose the least I can do is let them see all the information I’ve already filled out for them in advance.

And in the end, letting businesses figure out better ways to cater to your needs through that data is a net positive for everyone—and all that just for jumping on a store’s Wi-Fi network. Pretty sweet deal.

In fact, the growing prevalence of public Wi-Fi options just further proves that it’s getting easier and easier to ditch phone contracts entirely. Instead of paying cash to get access to the web, you’re paying information—again, information you’ve already decided is fine for the public to know. How long until Facebook lets us make phone calls and texts in exchange for checking in?

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