The Shiru Cafe is located in Providence, RI near the campus of Brown University. This is no ordinary coffee shop. In exchange for personal data, Sirius offering students free coffee. According to an article published by NPR, the cafe only serves students and faculty members at their locations and while faculty have the option to use cash, in order for students to receive coffee they must provide information such as their name, email address, phone number and even their professional interests and current major.
The Shiru Cafe then provides each student’s information to corporate sponsors that pay the cafe directly. Additionally, the specially trained cafe staff provide students with information about the sponsor companies while they enjoy their drinks. Companies are even offered the opportunity to host recruitment sessions within the cafe!
Our Take: Data privacy is an important issue to discuss with students prior to them going away to college. While handing out your name and email address may seem harmless, particularly to a cash-strapped college student, parents need to discuss the potential risks of such activities with their children. A common place of exposure is using public Wi-Fi and exposing personal data to any number of potential threats.
One major concern is that students do not know how their data will be used. As the story notes, “If [the cafe is] giving you something for free, this data that’s being collected, for any vendor, there seems to be more value in the data than in the product.”