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Privacy Cellphones Wireless Networking Your Rights Online

Have a Wi-Fi-Enabled Phone? Stores Are Tracking You 323

jfruh writes "Call it Google Analytics for physical storefronts: if you've got a phone with wi-fi, stores can detect your MAC address and track your comings and goings, determining which aisles you go to and whether you're a repeat customer. The creator of one of the most popular tracking software packages says that the addresses are hashed and not personally identifiable, but it might make you think twice about leaving your phone on when you head to the mall."
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Have a Wi-Fi-Enabled Phone? Stores Are Tracking You

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  • Turn off wifi (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 22, 2013 @07:35PM (#42662867)

    Most smart phones allow you to turn off wifi.
    I keep mine off most of the time unless I need it that also includes GPS and Bluetolth

  • by FSWKU ( 551325 ) on Tuesday January 22, 2013 @07:40PM (#42662905)
    Avoid places where this kind of garbage is known to be in use. Turning off the wifi means you have to sacrifice some of the functionality of your phone just to not be tracked. Similarly, the op-out is crap as well. Why should I have to opt out? And what's wrong with the door sensors that have been in use for years to figure out conversion ratios?

    Not that I've gone into a mall recently, but seeing any of the stores using this system would be the best way to make sure I never come back.
  • Gas points (Score:3, Insightful)

    by badford ( 874035 ) on Tuesday January 22, 2013 @07:49PM (#42662971)

    They will track your movements with facial recognition cameras.

    Insurance company will know how much butter, beer and beef you are buying.

    Your car will track your driving habits and your TV will track your entertainment.

    They will know when you are happy, sad, indifferent or lonely and will provide a product or service that will hit the spot.

    Just relax. They have your best interest firmly in mind

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 22, 2013 @07:49PM (#42662973)

    No, that's not what it means at all. It means they'll be able to better tailor their store to profit off of you. Generally, that's not a good thing for you.

  • by neiras ( 723124 ) on Tuesday January 22, 2013 @07:52PM (#42663035)

    Any smartphone can see all the MAC addresses of all phones and access points around it, bluetooth or WiFi (if enabled of course). With GPS positioning on most of those devices and a Giant Corporate Big Brother aggregating the results, all of us are reporting on our proximity to each other.

    We all know that Google's wifi geolocation stuff works this way - by tracking which fixed wifi base stations are in range and correlating with a GPS fix. People forget that Google can also identify other phones within range of your phone, and they know which Google accounts are attached to those devices.

    Google really does know who is sitting next to you on the train or in the coffee shop, who your jogging partner is, and which whore you visit when your wife leaves your general vicinity.

    I bet they do some amazing automated profiling. This guy is a garbage man and works with these people, that guy likes to sit in coffee shops and this woman is usually also present, she's not his wife, so lets advertise couples vacations and cheater sites, this other woman visits a preschool every day and is probably a parent, let's suggest other parents from the same preschool as her Google+ friend...

  • by LordSnooty ( 853791 ) on Tuesday January 22, 2013 @07:53PM (#42663041)
    You're wandering around shouting "i am this address, do you have service" so you can't be surprised if some recipients note that down.
  • by amorsen ( 7485 ) <> on Tuesday January 22, 2013 @07:54PM (#42663043)

    Isn't a hashed MAC address going to be the same every time? Seems like it would be easy to match the phone to a person if they made a couple credit card purchases on separate trips into a store.

    Correct, hashing does not do anything useful here except keep up the pretence. Well it prevents multiple-vendor networks from combining logs from different vendors, but I bet all monitoring devices from a single vendor use the same hash.

  • by Jane Q. Public ( 1010737 ) on Tuesday January 22, 2013 @08:47PM (#42663673)

    "Change your MAC address to a pseudo-random one every time you go out of your main home or work environment. It's possible on android and iOS devices."

    This would be of absolutely no help with an in-store tracking system. They don't care what your MAC address IS, they just use it to track you in the store.

    And despite what the software vendors claim: a tracking system that assigns a MAC address to you walking down an aisle *IS* personally identifiable... as long as you are in the store.

Nothing ever becomes real till it is experienced -- even a proverb is no proverb to you till your life has illustrated it. -- John Keats