Privacy Alert – Phone Charging Kiosks

Free Charging KioskAt ChargeDefense, we continue to get looks of astonishment and outright fear when we explain the dangers of charging mobile devices through USB connections. Most people do not realize that when you plug your phone into a USB connection, the first thing that happens is an attempt by the device to synchronize with whatever it is plugged in to. Cyber criminals quickly recognized that this was an opportunity to exploit and use it to conduct identity theft and install malware on unsuspecting victims.

But, it’s not just criminals that use USB connectivity to collect information from your mobile devices. Just like merchants and search engines install cookies on your computer to detect purchasing patterns and use that information to personalize targeted advertising just for you, your mobile devices can be used for the exact same thing. Your browsing history and purchasing patterns are valuable and that information can be collected and sold for profit. Your privacy is constantly in jeopardy.

One of the surprising tools used for collecting your personal information are public charging kiosks. We redacted an actual kiosk privacy policy agreement (you can’t make this stuff up) to show you the true dangers of unprotected mobile device charging.

Information They Collect

Privacy Alert - Phone Charging Kiosks Information They CollectWhen you connect to a public charging station such as the one in this example, you are effectively waiving your privacy rights. Their agreement terms (the fine print) states that they ask for “personal and non-personal information” such as “name, address, phone number, credit card information, birthday, Facebook and/or Twitter usernames, and information regarding your cell phone and/or other mobile device.”

The “agreement” goes on to state, “the Kiosk <Company> automatically receives and records information on our server logs from your browser or mobile platform”. What are they automatically collecting?

  • IP address and location
  • Transaction location
  • Purchase activity
  • Idle time
  • All clicks and/or swipes

What They Do With Your Personal Information

Privacy Alert - Phone Charging Kiosks How They Use Your InformationWhat are they doing with this information? Well, they TELL you they are sharing it with merchants and third party service providers they have partnerships with in order to target you with advertising.

What If I Don’t Want Them To Collect My Personal Information?

I can never do a story like this without a little attempt at sarcastic humor, so here it is . . . Luckily, this particular vendor has a solution.

Privacy Alert - Phone Charging Kiosks AcceptanceYou got it. First, they tell you they reserve the right to do whatever they want with your personal information in the future. Then they give you the out by telling you that if you don’t want us to collect your information, then don’t use our kiosk.

Conclusion

Your personal information is valuable and it is yours. There has been a disturbing trend where personal information is being collected and harvested by all kinds of people for all kinds of reasons. Some are somewhat benign, such as targeting personalized advertising. Some are much more sinister such as identity theft and spying. Many people are either unaware or just accept it. And it is nearly impossible to avoid all of it since we all leave digital footprints when we purchase products and services, pay taxes, and live in communities. There is a digital record of all of us somewhere. We all like to think that those records are safe and being kept private. And, most organizations do have privacy policies in place and genuinely do care about protecting your privacy.

Protect your privacy with the Juice-Jack DefenderSome of these public charging kiosk companies obviously do not care about privacy and glibly state it in their policy. Unfortunately, sometimes you simply have no choice – you need to charge that phone and your only choice is the conveniently-located charging kiosk. ChargeDefense provides you with another solution. The Juice-Jack Defender® is guaranteed to block all data sharing at public charging kiosks – and beyond! So, when you are out and about, stick a charge cable and a Juice-Jack Defender® in your pocket or your purse wherever you go and protect your personal privacy.

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