Rights and networks

Google Open Research

Understanding the implications of free Wi-Fi

We were asked by AI Now co-founder Meredith Whittaker to investigate the implications of free Wi-Fi on people’s rights. This research project brought together desk research, guerilla testing and expert interviews with a hardware prototype that helped us to ‘see’ Wi-Fi networks. This approach helped us understand the way free Wi-Fi is implemented, and how that encodes particular power structures.

Free Wi-Fi provides valuable access to people who wouldn't otherwise be able to get online. But using it means data about what they browse on the internet, what devices they use and even where they go can be collected and shared by Wi-Fi providers. None of that is clear at point of access. We think there is an opportunity to show an ethical, free Wi-Fi network and make accessible design patterns that explains any data exchange.

Read our Rights & Networks research.

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