Over the years I’ve used a number of Netgear modems, routers and switchers but this weekend I received what will be my last Netgear product. It’s a simple Wi-Fi range extender and probably works well but Netgear’s attempt at customer retention is not acceptable. Netgear will not let me setup the extender until I enter my email address into the device. It’s not required for operation of the product. My TP-Link range extender never demanded my email address. Netgear simply wants to expand their mailing list.

                    WiFi Range Extender

If you live in the country or have a big house, you’re probably already using a range extender. It’s nothing more than a data relay for your existing Wi-Fi and extends the your WiFi range. While it does need your Wi-Fi password in order to connect to your existing service, it doesn’t need an email address.

I could have lied or used a mailinator address but this was a matter of principle. Rather than give in, I pulled my TP-Link range extender out of it’s current application (providing a camera feed from my chicken coop) and used it. When my abhorrence of waste finally overcomes the insult to my intelligence, the Netgear extender will be exiled into an application that never touches the Internet. You guessed it, camera feed from the chicken coop.

Right about now, if you’re like most people. you’re thinking how incredibly petty of me. No that’s wrong, I apologize, if you’ve read this far, you’re certainly not most people but I bet you still think I’m overreacting.

Before you agree with my wife and categorize me as a member of the tin foil hat brigade, let me defend myself.

There’s only one reason Netgear wants my email and that’s to send me spam, trying to entice me into buying more of their products or to sell my address. I bought my last ASUS laptop four years ago and I’m still receiving offers on their cloud storage.

Holding my range extender hostage until I give up an email address is bad enough but consider this, as I’m setting the Wi-Fi range extender up, I’m not using their app or their website, I’m entering data directly into the range extender. In order to make use of my address, the range extender has to store that data and report back to its computational overlord when it finally connects to the Internet.

I don’t remember the existence of a back channel being in the list of features. If it’s providing my email address, what else might it be providing when it reports to its data master. Browsing habits, passwords, email contacts?

Oh, I’m sure they wouldn’t do anything with that data except….

Do me a favor, Google who’s been hacked today (that really should be a website). Given the number of companies that were hacked today, what’s the odds that my email address and my data stream have already been acquired? You’re right, it’s only my email address and browsing habits. How much harm can that cause?

Armed with my data stream, it doesn’t take deep thinking AI to determine where I bank, where I shop, where I hang out. Couple my email address with that information and this data hijack becomes tantamount to an assault on my finances. I’m far more likely to open an email from my bank promising me a great deal (limited time only to compromise my decision making) at the place I frequently shop than one from a bank I’ve never done business with.

We all know what comes next. Still, just in case you feel my tin foil hat is cutting off blood flow to my brain, click on any link in that limited time offer and you run the risk of infecting your computer with a lifelong shopping assistant, otherwise known as a virus or trojan. Open any attachment and you will probably have a very personal chance to experience the frustration of restoring your computer from a ransomware attack {you do have an up to date, offline backup don’t you?). Enter your credentials in order to take advantage of that wonderful offer and you will learn how caring your bank is as you explain that you never authorized all those withdrawals.

Sundae, Ready to guard my pizza

I’ve always believed that consumers can influence corporate behavior with  their purchases and reviews, This post and my review on Amazon reflect that belief. Any questions on why I trust Sundae to guard my pizza more than I trust Netgear right now? Want to borrow my tin foil hat?

© 2021, Byron Seastrunk. All rights reserved.