Most US adults are wary about using free Wi-Fi when it’s offered at public places such as bookstores, coffee shops and hotels—primarily because of privacy concerns. Nearly half of respondents surveyed in AARP’s July 2016 said they believed that free public Wi-Fi was not very safe, or safe at all for that matter.
Other respondents didn’t quite have these privacy concerns. For example, 39.1% of US adults believed that free public Wi-Fi was somewhat safe to use, and 4.8% felt it was very safe. And there were those that just weren’t sure.
Many people rely on Wi-Fi so they don’t have to use up all of the data they pay for every month. Companies like Target and Bloomingdale’s have even been offering customers free public Wi-Fi when they’re in any of their locations. And they’ve been trying to further connect with consumers by offering incentives, like coupon codes, once they log in to the public Wi-Fi.
Though privacy may be a concern for some, AARP found that more than a quarter of US adults are accessing the internet via free public Wi-Fi at least once a week. And more than 40% are accessing the free Wi-Fi at least once a month. Still, 40.2% of respondents said they never access the internet via free public Wi-Fi, perhaps because of privacy concerns.
Consumers generally are worried about privacy. Most mobile phone users in the US are worried about brands tuning in to when and how often they use their products.
And although they are willing to hand over data in exchange for money, concerns about data protection among both marketers and internet users suggest they’ll only go so far.