back to article Consumers agree to give up first-born child for free Wi-Fi – survey

Consumers carelessly use public Wi-Fi without regard for their personal privacy, even blithely agreeing to surrender their first born in exchange for the opportunity to check their emails without paying. That's according to an experiment which involved setting up a "poisoned" Wi-Fi hotspot. Unsuspecting users who connected to …

  1. TeeCee Gold badge
    Facepalm

    Ts & Cs.

    Hardly surprising. All the hotspot Ts & Cs I've ever seen were presented as a page of small print obviously composed for a full desktop browser and utterly bleedin' illegible on any screen size below 19".

    I don't read the sodding things either.....

    1. Semtex451

      Re: Ts & Cs.

      And expecting users to be "expert", can never work. As we've all said a thousand times before, this highlights the risks the "industry" exposes users to, not the ignorance of the general public.

      There is no patch for Human stupidity.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: There is no patch for Human stupidity.

        Darwin might just disagree with you on that one.

        Mind you, the evolutionary patching process he described is even more incremental than the recent series of fixes for bash! :-)

        1. Androgynous Cupboard Silver badge

          Re: There is no patch for Human stupidity.

          Personal favourite T&Cs are the Barclays Bike Hire units in London. The first page comes up with "Page 1 of 19" - no, strangely enough I haven't read them either.

          1. Chloe Cresswell

            Re: There is no patch for Human stupidity.

            Dave Gorman did.. and found they didn't know how many days were in a leap year in the T&Cs ;)

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: There is no patch for Human stupidity.

              I'm not sure I see the problem here. Someone takes one of your kids of your hands and even gives you something for the privilege. I usually pay a lot more than that for child care in London.

              1. Jonathan Richards 1 Silver badge
                Facepalm

                Re: There is no patch for Human stupidity.

                > Someone takes one of your kids of your hands

                I don't care what you do with your hands: irrespective of what Sister told you, your hands are never going to have kids.

                Oh, you meant off your hands! I see. My mistake.

  2. Joe Harrison

    Nobody reads those things

    I never do, and even if people can be bothered the agreement is often not formatted to be read easily on a tiny phone screen. I just tick "yes" to everything. Does it really matter when everything I care about is via SSL or some other encryption.

    Good luck trying to enforce the favourite pet thing as well.

    1. Jason Bloomberg

      Re: Nobody reads those things

      And why would anyone? Most T&Cs simply boil down to "we may abuse you any and every way we can", the rest is ensuring they are immune from complaints and devoid of responsibilities.

      The only time I read T&Cs is to check exactly how I will be abused, particularly regarding copyright as many claim rights over anything and everything with respect to their service.

  3. jabuzz

    I would happily agree to the condition to give up my first born child safe in the knowledge that such a term is unenforceable in the U.K. at least.

    1. DropBear
      Pint

      There's anecdotal evidence about something similar having been done by one of our colleagues back at the uni - allegedly he snuck the sentence "if you are reading this, a box of beer is yours" somewhere halfway into his diploma thesis he was doing with one of the more easy-going professors. Needless to say, the beers were never collected...

      1. ItsNotMe
        Facepalm

        @DropBear

        My brother had a Professor once, who inserted into the instructions for an exam a line that said "If you have read these instructions to this point, then you may get up, bring the exam paper to the front of the room, and you may leave. You will receive a top mark. Thank you."

        He was only one of two or three students who actually read the instructions and left. The rest of the class had no idea why they left the room...until after they finished the exam.

    2. elip

      I, on the other hand, would happily agree to the condition to give up my first AND second born, hopeful that such a term was legally binding. :-[ Anyone, anyone? No free wifi needed...

  4. thondwe

    Ofcom - standard T's and C's

    Any chance that Ofcom could enforce a standard set of T's and C's for public WiFi- so the acceptance page could be a very simple line stating both provider and user abide by Ofcom's T's and C's.

    Assuming we'd have faith of Ofcom providing something reasonable?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Ofcom - standard T's and C's

      To complete your last sentence "... before 2029".

  5. Version 1.0 Silver badge

    No surprise here

    Who the heck ever reads the shrink wrap agreements? We're all in overload when the standard agreement pops up every bloody time we install the weekly Flash update or access agreement. This has to change - how would be manage to do anything if this type of "requirement" was extended into everyday life?

    Want to use the Tube? Please click on you acceptance of our T&C.

    A pint of Bitter sir? Please click on you acceptance of our T&C.

    Ordering lunch? The restaurant T&C must be accepted before you can place an order.

    Where's Dick the Butcher (''The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers,') when you need him? He's probably reading the Terms and Conditions.

    1. deshepherd

      Re: No surprise here

      Want to use the tube? I think back in the days of tickets then that would have had some comment about T&C's that applied. You probably have to tick a box to get an Oyster card but not sure how they do it in the brave new bonk to pay world!

      1. Terry 6 Silver badge

        Re: No surprise here

        Tickets used to have a blanket agreement on the back, accepting their T&Cs which were, on display somewhere or other (what was that line from Hitchiker?). Basically it said that by purchasing the ticket you agreed to give them some money and they promised to give you pretty much nothing, not even a ride on their bus/tube, unless it suited them.

    2. Fluffy Bunny
      Facepalm

      Re: No surprise here

      Funnily enough, when you go into the carpark of my local shops, there's a big list of Ts&Cs. The text is too small to read unless you're right next to it & if you do stop to read it, you get honked by the cars in back. Are they enforceable? I would hope not, because I've never been able to read them... Imagine the things I could have agreed to just by driving through the boom gates.

      Similar thing for my local movie theatre.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Non-story

    Unenforceable term is unenforceable.

    The reason for this become clear towards the end "using products such as Hotspot Shield or F-Secure's Freedome."

    It's not even journalism, it's a PR piece to peddle products. As these products are closed-source the consumer *STILL* has no real idea what they do. Obscurity is not security.

    El Reg - Epic fail once again. Still, makes a change from pushing the usual MS propaganda.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Non-story

      Non-story

      Unenforceable term is unenforceable.

      Do you suppose it might just possibly have been put there simply to demonstrate that nobody reads the damned Ts&Cs? Rather than considerations of how legally enforceable the term might not be?

      1. wolfetone Silver badge
        Facepalm

        Re: Non-story

        " Non-story

        Unenforceable term is unenforceable."

        Oh you are special, can't you see that it's just to prove a point? The researchers wouldn't want 250 first born children as a result of the experiment.

        Think, if you can, of a coffee shop doing a similar thing with their T's & C's regarding their WiFi. They could easily put "To use this WiFi you agree to providing this coffee shop with your full name and address, bank details, and you also agree to setting up a standing order of £10 a month to use this WiFi". Realistically, you wouldn't accept these terms. But if you do, you couldn't then say to the judge "Your hounor, I didn't read the small print". Tough shit, you agreed to this to use the WiFi. Pony up.

        Now, can you see where this non-MS propaganda is going?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Non-story

          "They could easily put "To use this WiFi you agree to providing this coffee shop with your full name and address, bank details, and you also agree to setting up a standing order of £10 a month to use this WiFi". Realistically, you wouldn't accept these terms. But if you do, you couldn't then say to the judge "Your hounor, I didn't read the small print". Tough shit, you agreed to this to use the WiFi. Pony up."

          Oh dear god, they have let the children out to pay today. No, that is manifestly NOT what would happen. To begin with, those terms are not reasonable (i.e. a reasonable person would not expect them to be there). As such they are going to have to be obvious. Very obvious. To the point of needing entry at the time of use, not after the fact.

          Burying them many paragraphs down would allow the defence of "I didn't know that was there". This is a completely valid defence as shysters /have/ in the past tried to hide additional terms (on the back, in an addendum, whatever). Judges throw this crap out.

          By reading this post you have agreed to pay me £10. Pony up. See...that kinda crap just doesn't fly.

          1. wolfetone Silver badge

            Re: Non-story

            "Oh dear god, they have let the children out to pay today. No, that is manifestly NOT what would happen. To begin with, those terms are not reasonable (i.e. a reasonable person would not expect them to be there). As such they are going to have to be obvious. Very obvious. To the point of needing entry at the time of use, not after the fact.

            Burying them many paragraphs down would allow the defence of "I didn't know that was there". This is a completely valid defence as shysters /have/ in the past tried to hide additional terms (on the back, in an addendum, whatever). Judges throw this crap out.

            By reading this post you have agreed to pay me £10. Pony up. See...that kinda crap just doesn't fly."

            Yes, the Kid is out and he's correct.

            I have never once seen T's & C's that you can just read. You agree to them. You click "agree" to carry on. You agree to the terms set out. This is enforceable. It's the same as when you read the T's & C's of software you install, that you won't use it for commerical use. You agree to it, you use the software. So if that software was used for commercial purposes, although you agreed to the T's & C's that it wouldn't, the software company can sue your arse.

            They are a legal thing. Just because you think it's unreasonable doesn't mean jack shit to anyone. Your solicitor can argue all day about it not being reasonable, but if the other party have a solicitor with a better argument than yours, they will win.

            Simple. As. That.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Non-story

              "Just because you think it's unreasonable doesn't mean jack shit to anyone."

              Actually, quite a lot of law is based on what a 'reasonable' person would do in a given situation or assume. This fictional 'reasonable' person /could be/ a lay-person (like for Ts&Cs) or an expert (like for when you hire a lawyer to check a contract).

              Tough clauses big-n-bold? A reasonable person would either agree or walk away.

              Those clauses hidden on para 3,298? No reasonable person would expect to find tough crap down there, a reasonable person would expect such things to be made obvious.

              If you can argue that to the judge, then they will be happy to print out the Ts&Cs, roll them up and ram them right up the appropriate orifice.

        2. Martin-73
          Headmaster

          Re: Non-story

          Well no, if you were addressing a British judge, you'd probably be better with "My lord" or 'm'lud', than 'your honour'

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Non-story

        "Do you suppose it might just possibly have been put there simply to demonstrate that nobody reads the damned Ts&Cs? Rather than considerations of how legally enforceable the term might not be?"

        Sigh.

        If the Ts&Cs are not clear and simple enough for a lay person to reasonably follow, and that's who we are talking about here - you and me, not some fancy lawyer; then they are totally and utterly unenforceable regardless of what they may say. All that would apply are statutory and "reasonable" terms as determined by a judge.

        *IF*, however, the terms were clear (i.e. plain language and a couple of short paragraphs) then they are more likely to be enforceable.

        But they are not. They are impenetrable cobble-de-gook and utterly unenforceable. Only *fear* on the part of the user gives them any coercive power and that fear is what it would cost to defend their freedoms.

        1. Seanie Ryan

          Re: Non-story

          Surely AC is missing the main point of the story. People connect to any network and their traffic is visible.

          The whole T&C part was a humorous side line

        2. Fluffy Bunny
          Boffin

          Re: Non-story

          Joke Ts&Cs are ok, but there are some really bad ones out there that you should only accept in the most dire circumstances. For instance, the ones that state you must give 12 months notice of any variation in use. That one was very ugly, especially in view of the intransigence of the company concerned. And you know that the company will be very, very intransigent when you read the Ts&Cs. But oh, no, you didn't read them, did you?

          Long way of saying that there are a lot of people out there doing things that would be very unwise if anybody took them seriously. Perhaps what we need to do is have a law that these click-through Ts&Cs are completely invalid.

          "By reading this post you have agreed to pay me £10. Pony up. See...that kinda crap just doesn't fly."

          One final point about the above comment: you can't prove I read the post. What you mean is "by clicking ok, you agree to pay $10".

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Joke

      Re: Non-story

      What do you mean non-enforceable ?

      I read the Ts & Cs and used your WiFi, you will take my first born whether you like it or not, by the way the Child benefit has stopped and the recalcitrant little gobshite has picked a Uni that costs £9000 per term, good luck to you.

      1. Captain DaFt

        Re: Non-story

        "you will take my first born whether you like it or not"

        Just make sure that you provide a Ts&Cs for them to sign when you turn him/her over, stipulating a one Billion (Beellion!) pound restocking fee should they realise what a terrible, horrible mistake that they've made and wish to return him/her!

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Genuine operators don't help

    Most seem to go out of their way to block or otherwise mess with VPN traffic, probably because it interferes with their ability to push ad-laden landing pages and (worse) embed ads in web pages people are browsing. I hardly ever bother now, and just use a mobile data connection whenever possible.

    1. Drusenija

      Re: Genuine operators don't help

      Even that doesn't solve the issue depending on where you are. Try visiting parts of Asia (yes, I know, outside the scope of most El Reg readers) and they're injecting popup ads directly into my web browsing. I've taken to using OpenVPN on my own phone over a 3G connection whilst abroad, it's ridiculous.

  8. Dan 55 Silver badge

    So that's yet another thing missing from Android...

    The option to mark saved wi-fi connections as trusted (i.e. home or work ones where you'd happily sync your e-mail, contacts, calendar, and so on, and update apps and the phone) or untrusted just suitable for something like a quick browse to find train times.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: So that's yet another thing missing from Android...

      Android assumes that if you save them, you trust them... Oh, wait. I see your point.

      Well, don't save them, 'forget' them afterwards.

      Yeah, we miss a 'hostile/DMZ' wifi hotspot list.

    2. Andrew Jones 2

      Re: So that's yet another thing missing from Android...

      I believe something like that is coming in "L"

      But until then -

      Settings > Wireless & Networks (More) > VPN > Overflow Menu (3 dots) > Always On VPN

  9. EssEll
    Flame

    Crap Ts & Cs

    Endless pages of Ts & Cs piss me off no end. They need to be made more straightforward and easier to read. None of this "...nothwithstanding the provisions of Paragraph 4 subsection 2 and persuant to..." bollocks.

    Where's the Plain English Campaign when you freekin' need them?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Crap Ts & Cs

      "Where's the Plain English Campaign when you freekin' need them?"

      The problem with the PEC is that they're trying to bolt the stable door long after the horse has gone. UK legislation is (for the most part) incompetently drafted in wilfully arcane and confusing language by civil servants, and the Wasters of Westminster never refuse to rubber stamp poorly drafted laws. In most cases I'd wager they haven't even read the bills they are voting on.

      Do you think your MP knows what this tiny, tiny snippet means:

      http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2003/21/section/52

      As long as the language of the law is unintelligible, then T&Cs will be similarly opaque, and trying to mop up afterwards is always going to be doomed to failure.

      1. 080

        Re: Crap Ts & Cs

        Surely, you mean "The Wankers of Westminster" ?

      2. Angol

        Re: Crap Ts & Cs

        Can you explain, please, what's wrong with section 52? The language isn't elegant but it's clear enough.

      3. Vic

        Re: Crap Ts & Cs

        UK legislation is (for the most part) incompetently drafted in wilfully arcane and confusing language

        I disagree. For the most part, legislation is *very* competently drafted.

        The trouble is, it usually isn't doing what it claims to be doing. So the Emergency Anti-Terror Legislation gets thrown through parliament (because it's important, right?), only for the rest of us to find out after the fact that it's just about increasing snooping powers for petty bureaucrats.

        To claim this is incompetent assumes that the end result wasn't the goal all the time...

        Vic.

    2. Fluffy Bunny
      Alert

      Re: Crap Ts & Cs

      "Where's the Plain English Campaign "

      Plain English isn't the problem, although it is an essential start. The problem is that they go on for so long and put apalling restrictions on the buyer. A few suggestions:

      1. Any terms that go over to the 2nd page are treated as being ommitted.

      2. Ts&Cs must be restricted to obligations the vendor is providing.'

      3. Any Ts&Cs requiring anything from the purchaser must be provided in a formal contract, not a click-through.

      4. Ts&Cs should be limitted to certain Parliament-approved conditions, such as copyright restrictions & number of licences purchased.

      5. Finally, Ts&Cs can't be used to take standard rights off the purchaser.

  10. Yugguy
    WTF?

    People are STUPID

    This is news?

  11. Carbon life unit 5,232,556

    Exchange eldest for free wifi?

    Cool where do I send the scrote (yes he's 17, good luck)

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Epic misunderstanding of email there...

    "the researchers found that the text of emails sent over a POP3 network could be read, as could the addresses of the sender and recipient, and even the password of the sender"

    No. POP3 is not a network. Of course the addresses are visible if you can see the text of the email (one blank line is the only difference between email headers and body). But POP3 will NEVER reveal the password of the sender (unless they put it in the content of the email) - POP3 is a RECIPIENT side connection.

    Of course, people who have unsecured POP3 set up will almost certainly have the equivalent SMTP too, but that's not what the article says.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Epic misunderstanding of email there...

      To a point, you are correct. However, the recipient's credentials can be sniffed since POP3 is normally a cleartext connection that requires a login. That's why most ISPs are adding in the STARTTLS extension which allows for transitioning to a secured connection before authentication occurs.

  13. i like crisps

    YOU CAN HAVE MY 'FIRST BORN'

    He's a feckless, bone idle waster....free WI FI sounds like a fair swap to me!

    1. John 110

      Re: YOU CAN HAVE MY 'FIRST BORN'

      I agree, although I think I might hold out for fast broadband as well.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Commentards worrying

    There do seem to be some worryingly uncaring parents here.

    Where's social services when you need them?

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge
      Trollface

      Re: Commentards worrying

      Posting to The Register.

  15. Heironymous Coward
    Joke

    What did they do with the kids??

  16. Mattjimf

    The T&C thing would have been interesting had Gamestation not done something similar before they went tits up - http://www.geek.com/games/gamestation-eula-collects-7500-souls-from-unsuspecting-customers-1194091/

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'd agree to that if I actually read the thing

    Knowing that a clause requiring me to give up my firstborn would be unenforceable, I wouldn't worry about it. I'd worry much more if I gave my assent to receiving marketing surveys because that's something I know would be enforceable!

  18. Francis Boyle

    SySS

    Have rather too many esses in their name for my taste - especially for an outfit from Germany.

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