Make a quick stop to your local coffee shop, restaurant, bar or newspaper stand, connect to their free Wi-Fi and within minutes you could see targeted texts on your phone or email ads in your inbox related to products sold at those establishments. Labelled as “Wi-Fi or Proximity Marketing”, this new type of advertising has people worried about unwanted email and further concerned about their privacy. Local tech blogger Kevin Andrews is with us this morning to give us his thoughts on this new type of trending proximity marketing tool.
So commonly called Wi-Fi or Proximity Marketing and used widely over in Asia, it seems like some stores in this hemisphere are now offering free Wi-Fi for customers so they can track where in the store, building, or mall you are in an attempt to send you targeted advertising and coupons via email or text. Find yourself in a chocolate store you might get an email or text for Valentine’s Day Dark Chocolate Rose Pops. Wander into the food court you could find multiple texts with coupons for your favorite fast food.
One of the more common ways this is accomplished is by using a combination of wireless technology already found in your phone; either through GSM (which is essentially through your texting service, or NFC short for: Near Field Communication, or Bluetooth; which is a short-range wireless technology found in many mobile phones. Therefore, any device that connects to one of these free Wi-Fi Proximity hot spots will track your location throughout the building or store sending you email or texts for product promotion.
As part of the free Wi-Fi login process, you would be asked to read and accept their user agreement along with providing your phone number, email, or one of your social media profiles. That said, there has been a number of cases where people have not provided their contact information, because it is optional, but have still received emails for product information. So, I would say before this becomes mainstream, more testing needs to be done to ensure customer privacy. In the meantime, I’d be careful jumping on free Wi-Fi networks without realizing the possible implications since it could give away some of your personal data as once you give it away you can’t undo that process.
How can people avoid getting caught up in this? Avoid connecting to free Wi-Fi spots that are using this technology and if you decide patriciate in this type of proximity marketing you might want to provide an alternate email address that you use for all of your subscriptions, that way you can set it up to FORWARD everything to your person, private email account. In that respect, you can avoid giving up your personal email but avail of these types of high tech marketing promotions.