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Publication Detail
Why do people use unsecure public Wi-Fi? An investigation of behaviour and factors driving decisions
© 2016 Copyright is held by the owner/author(s). Public Wi-Fi networks are now widely available in many countries. Though undoubtedly convenient, such networks have potential security and privacy risks. The aim of this study was to understand if people are aware of those risks, and - if so - why they decide to take them. We set up an experimental free Wi-Fi network at 14 locations in central London, UK, for a period of 150 hours, and people connected most often to use instant messaging, search engines, and social networks, and sensitive data (such as name, date of birth, and sexual orientation) were transmitted. We subsequently investigated people's risk awareness and risk behaviour through semi-structured interviews with 14 participants, and an online scenario-based survey with 102 participants. The majority of participants said they would use public Wi-Fi under circumstances where the risks taken are not consistent with maximising utility. Female participants rated the risks associated with public Wi-Fi use, more highly - and yet more females than males said they would use them to save their data plans. These findings align with insights from behavioural economics, specifically the insight that people can misjudge risky situations and do not make decisions consistent with expected utility theory.
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