Free Wi-Fi: The Modern Monkey’s Paw?

January 13, 2022
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    There’s no such thing as a free lunch, or apparently free Wi-Fi for some, as more businesses are adopting the trend of tracking specific devices. While this may sound a bit obvious to most, it’s a bit deeper than that. Usually when you connect to public Wi-Fi, you’ll be greeted with a sign-in form, also known as a “captive portal”. This either consists of reading over the terms and conditions, or clicking a box that says you’ve read them, as well as entering an email address. But now some businesses are adding in a new little box to tick that seems like a time-saver at face value, but is a bit more interesting when thought upon. This box asks to save the user’s MAC address for a year, in return they do not have to go through the light hassle of thirty seconds of clicking to connect to the Wi-Fi. The brilliant idea behind this is that the next time the user connects to that Wi-Fi network, the provider automatically recognizes the device and records data from their visit.

    But what is so important about recognizing a specific device? MAC addresses alone don’t contain identifying information besides the make and model of a device. But as long as a device’s MAC address is linked to someone’s profile, and the device’s Wi-Fi is turned on, the movements of its owner can be followed by any hotspot from the same provider. This can reveal a detailed profile of someone’s daily habits. Where they shop, where they live, and what places they frequent at certain times could be laid bare by this data. The more information you can glean from this, the better.

    This sort of customer targeting can make customer segmentation much easier. Being able to differentiate which data comes from which specific device helps quantify and organize subsets much quicker. With this valuable information, you’re able to enter the funnel at a lower stage. Identifying users more precisely is one of the main components of a strong identity graph. Knowing your consumers and being able to track them more accurately along their journey from awareness, to consideration, to purchase can immediately improve and change your marketing strategy while saving you time, as well as money, on wasted ad-spend.