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Facebook tests free Wi-Fi for retailer check-ins

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Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) is testing a feature that would allow its users free access to Wi-Fi networks at businesses by checking in at those locations on Facebook.

Several stores and coffee shops in the Menlo Park, Calif., area near Facebook's headquarters are currently using Wi-Fi routers provided by Facebook to test the program, according to the Los Angeles Times. The feature would first send a user checking in at the business and onto the business' Wi-Fi network to that business' own Facebook page before letting them surf the Internet. If a user does not want to divulge her location to all of her Facebook friends, she can control the audience using Facebook privacy features.

The idea for the potential new feature rose from a recent Facebook hackathon event. If it survives the test phase to become a mass-market feature, it will be interesting to see how Facebook handles what could be a considerable expense, providing Wi-Fi gear to participating businesses. The businesses involved in the test are paying for their own Internet access, however.

Combining a check-in with an automatic Wi-Fi log-in could be a nifty aspect that sets Facebook's location services features apart from others. However, Facebook isn't the only one looking at this type of service. Foursquare also has a Wi-Fi-friendly mobile phone application called 4sqwifi, which allows users to see Wi-Fi networks and passwords of locations where they check in.

For more:
- see this Los Angeles Times report

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