That restaurant owner is tracking your phone not because he’s a snoop, but because he believes knowing when and where you go for entertainment will benefit his business. As a security analyst, I’ve been following how the act of tracking potential and current customers’ smartphones has been taking off recently.
There’s a company, Turnstyle Solutions Inc., that has placed sensors in nearly 200 businesses in Toronto City within a confined location to track shoppers as they ambulate about the city.
The sensors track signals emitted from Wi-Fi-enabled mobiles. The mobile-user’s movements in daily life create a profile of that user. Gee, how invasive is that? And Turnstyle isn’t the only company tracking peoples’ mobiles, either.
The business owner with one of these sensors justifies the invasion by using the profile knowledge to promote business.
Another sensor-supplying company, Euclid Analytics Inc., analyzes foot traffic patterns. The large retailer you visit may have one of these sensors, following your every move in the store.
It’s a booming business: tracking peoples’ daily movement patterns via their smartphone. But you can relax somewhat, because this technology does not reveal any names, just movement patterns.
But don’t relax too much, because Turnstyle runs a free Wi-Fi service at local coffee shops and restaurants that people can log into with Facebook-doing so will reveal their name, age and social media profile.
Phone tracking is a godsend to business owners, however, because they can create promotions based on profiles: E.g., upon learning that most clientele are over age 50, a health club might decide to play mostly ’70s music.
Nevertheless, as phone tracking booms, privacy concerns also boom. Do you want someone to track all your doctor visits, then sell this data to marketers based on what disease the tracking profile thinks you have? This seems to be where it’s all headed.
Companies in the U.S. still are not required to get your permission to collect and share your data for the most part. But you just never know what may come next.
Some helpful Information Regarding Phone Tracking
- Do you know what your cellphone carrier knows-about you? Because your phone must send signals to cell towers, your carrier knows your location. However, Verizon has businesses selling this information to retailers and other entities. AT&T is perched to follow suit. And you can’t shut off these signals.
- Turn the Wi-Fi off on your phone. It doesn’t have to be on when you’re driving from the gym to the donut shop to the computer store. An iPhone has settings that control which apps can monitor your location. Android users should turn off location tracking.
- Some companies like Turnstyle do have websites through which you can opt out of their sensor tracking.
- Like to take photos with your mobile? Guess what: iPhone saves the location where you took the shots, which is no secret once you post the photos on FB, Twitter, Instagram, etc. However, an app called DeGeo will remove this location information-before you post. The DeGeo app is incredibly easy to use, too.