This is a warning for all of you that frequently use free wifi access from public places such as hotels, airports, lounges and coffee shops. If you are that person that connects to public wifi access but never reads the pop-up windows, terms of service contracts, liability agreements or anything else that prevent you from being one step closer to free wifi, then you need to stop. Seriously, take that one step to read what you are actually agreeing to.
KTLA Morning News Tech Report Rich DeMuro was in San Francisco yesterday covering a Google event. He was staying at a Courtyard Marriott Hotel and was trying to connect to the hotel wifi when a Captive Portal Login window popped up on his cell phone. Like most of us, I would have just clicked accept, agree or allow without a blink of an eye to quickly connect to the wifi but luckily, Rich read what it was asking for before accepting. He tweeted this photo yesterday.
Yes, you read that correctly. To connect to the Courtyard Marriott’s hotel wifi, the wifi provider wanted access to his phone’s photos, media AND FILES! Now, I’m no technology security expert but “and files” sounds like ALL FILES to me and may include all the data files on your cell phone including your phone contacts, GPS data, photos, videos, audio files, password files, notes, etc. I’m completely shocked by this and quite frankly, I’m surprised Courtyard Marriott would be asking for so much personal data just for wifi access.
At the end of the day, I don’t think Courtyard Marriott Hotels have any evil intentions with your personal data and I’m sure they are just using that personal information to tailor their targeted advertising and marketing to you but still, that’s a lot of personal data and privacy to be giving up. If you do encounter a pop-up window like this, always click “deny.” Chances are (as in this case) you can still connect to the wifi but don’t have to agree to give up any of your personal data. I have reached out to Courtyard Marriott for an explanation but have not heard back from them yet. I will update my post if/when they do.
Have any of you encountered this before or have any insight into this? Feel free to share your experiences in the comments section below.