Chinese citizens should be happy if there’s free Wi-Fi access across the great city of Beijing, but apparently they are not. Why? They are worried that their phone numbers may be recorded and sold on to advertising or spamming companies, since a mobile phone number is required “for identity authentication” before you can use the Beijing public Wi-Fi.
First, the Beijing public Wi-Fi network is being developed by telecom giants China Mobile, China Unicom and China Telecom. Subscribers from these three telecom companies will be able to enjoy a 2Mbps public wideband service through the hotspot named “My Beijing” at major districts of Beijing. All Wi-Fi services will be free for three years under a pilot project. It is scheduled to go live before the end of the year with 90,000 wireless access points being deployed to provide network coverage to an estimated 60 percent of Beijing, covering most of the downtown areas and high-tech parks. Perhaps the ultimate goal of the free Wi-Fi is to provide 480,000 wireless access points, 6,000 plus hotspots across the city.
And here’s how the Beijing public Wi-Fi works: You go to the streets of Beijing, turn on your smartphone’s Wi-Fi and join the “My Beijing” network. And here comes the most important part. You need to enter your cell phone number “for identity authentication” before you can surf the net.
Lots of Beijing citizens are pissed. They do not understand why they need to provide their mobile phone number in order to access the public Wi-Fi. The ”My Beijing” network has been criticised by smart mobile phone users that are concerned about privacy on the network. Here’s what Zhou Yan, an English teacher at the New Oriental School in Beijing, said,
“I do not feel comfortable releasing my cell phone number. If I log on to the Wi-Fi and there happens to be a sales promotion, they might send the information to my cell phone since they know my number and position. They might know what I’m interested in and what I might purchase according to what I have viewed online. I have to trade my privacy for free services.”
Actually, the reason for Zhou’s uneasiness is that during a recent bank transaction, he released his phone number and he has been swamped by spam messages since. Here’s another citizen who thinks that the 3-year pilot project is to lure customers in and get them used to the service.
“They provide you with a three-year free service and you get hooked. After you have been used to the convenience of surfing the Internet, you will be willing to pay for the service.”
Looking at how the ”My Beijing” network getting criticised by users that are concerned about privacy on the network, the Chinese government officials have reassured citizens in Beijing that the soon-to-launch free WiFi network in the city will be safe when it opens next month. According to an employee at the Beijing branch of the China Mobile, the requirement of submitting a phone number to log on will help trace those whose online activity might endanger social security. On the other side, Zhang Shimin, a senior official of the commission, said free Wi-Fi is to enhance social wellbeing and entering a number is simply “identity authentication”.
Well, we do not think it is appropriate to provide your mobile phone number to strangers in China. First, we know the Chinese government is evil. They built the Great Firewall to prevent you to connect with the outside world. They even monitor the movement of 17 million cellphone users in Beijing, by tracking the signal of their mobile devices. Second, by providing your mobile phone number, it may put your personal data at risk. Previously, China introduced a system to require citizens to include their real identities when they are setting up their new mobile phone accounts with telecom companies. The system also drew in lots of complaints, since some Chinese users are concerned that the identification system may lead to their private information being leaked. Last but not least, there are too many cases of fraudulent companies cheating on mobile users in China. So, for those Chinese citizens who are aware of the Great Firewall, the ridiculous scams and fraud, they will not trade their privacy for free Wi-Fi access.
Source: China Daily
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