Reading the Fine Print

If you, like countless others, blindly accept the terms and conditions of a software or a service you may want to reconsider. Just ask the 22,000 people who are legally bound to 1000 hours of community service (including but not limited to, cleaning toilets at festivals, scraping chewing gum off the streets, and manually relieving sewer blockages). The European public Wi-Fi provider, Purple, added a joke term to their terms and conditions as a way to illustrate the, “lack of consumer awareness”.


purple wifi


In agreeing to the T&C’s when signing up for free Wi-Fi on Purple’s network of free hotspots 22,000 people unwittingly agreed to a “community service clause”. Only one person during the two-week long prank spotted the term.


The user may be be required, at Purpleā€™s discretion, to carry out 1,000 hours of community service. This may include the following. Cleansing local parks of animal waste. Providing hugs to stray cats and dogs. Manually relieving sewer blockages. Cleaning portable lavatories at local festivals and events. Painting snail shells to brighten up their existence. Scraping chewing gum off the streets.


Purple’s prank was part of their announcement that it’s the first General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) compliant Wi-Fi provider, aligning with the UK’s new legislation which goes into effect in May 2018. A condition of the new GDPR laws will require “unambiguous consent” before user’s personal or behavioral data can be used for corporate purposes. The CEO of purple, Gavin Wheeldon, stated, “Wi-Fi users need to read terms when they sign up to access a network. What are they agreeing to, how much data are they sharing, and what license are they giving to providers? Our experiment shows it’s all too easy to tick a box and consent to something unfair.”


While the GDPR is a great start, ultimately, this prank sheds light on the fact that we must all be personally responsible for our data. It is all too easy to provide consent beyond what is reasonable.


TL;DR – Read the fine print before agreeing to something or you might have to clean Porta-Potties.