Is there a hidden cost to free Wi-Fi?
Published Wednesday, January 22, 2014 4:40PM EST
Whether you're at a restaurant, mall, coffee shop, or library, there seems to be a free Wi-Fi connection available.
While consumers are often aware that their personal information is being tracked by telecom companies, what they may not realize is who else is keeping tabs on them without their knowledge.
"When something is free, one has to look very closely as to why something is being provided for free," Alan Lysne, managing director of Ryerson University's Digital Media Zone, told CTV Toronto.
He said your hand-held device gives you an electronic ID number that can be repeatedly tracked, something that Lysne cautions the public needs to be aware of.
For example, at least one Toronto-based company is using that information to offer consumers an enhanced mobile shopping experience.
Chris Gilpin, co-founder of Turnstyle Solutions, compares the software to a digital surveillance system. But this doesn’t mean his company is “Big Brother.”
"A lot of people think we are breaking into their phone, stealing their contacts and monitoring their browsing activity, which is simply not the case," said Gilpin.
Turnstyle Solutions -- used by more than 200 businesses downtown -- does not look at or store your browsing activity or banking information.
Rather, the mission statement posted on their website says the service is intended to "finally provide retailers with the tools necessary to give their customers the experience they deserve"
The company says it strictly uses the information to enhance the consumer shopping experience through promotions or coupons.
The easiest way to avoid having your contact information made public? Turn off your Wi-Fi on your smartphone when out in public places.
With a report from CTV Toronto's Dana Levenson