Stores tap into smart phone Wi-Fi signals to track shoppers

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INDIANAPOLIS – Stores are looking to profit from something you never leave home without and it could be giving up a wealth of information about your shopping habits.

Retailers are able to use your smart phone to tap into Wi-Fi signals, letting them watch your every move. The Wi-Fi signals can tell stores how long you shopped, the aisles you visited and if you’re a repeat customer. Even if a you visit a store with mobile monitoring you may have no idea you’re being tracked.

Companies like Euclid Analytics and Retail Next are able to use this technology to obtain your phone’s MAC address, basically an ID number for your phone.

An executive with Retail Next said their systems are used in big box, grocery and specialty stores. The company declined to provide Fox 59 with a list of retailers that use their technology.

“It’s a matter of being transparent of what is being done, there is absolutely nothing that we do that is not public,” said Maria Fernandez Guajardo with Retail Next.

Brick-and-mortar stores argue they are just trying to provide shoppers with a better experience but privacy advocates are concerned it’s about the bottom line.

“It’s a little bit disingenuous to say this is really about making the shopper happier or the shopper having a better experience because if that were the case you would be more willing to tell the shopper this is what we’re doing and this is why we’re doing it, why don’t you opt it why don’t you agree to let us do it,” said Fred Cate, director of the IU Center for Applied Cybersecurity Research.

You can ensure your phone won’t be tracked by going to this opt out website.