Anyone who carries a smartphone around (and that’s about 64% of us as of this year) may now be giving up new information to stores as Wi-Fi signals are used to track your shopping habits. Although stores might not be able to log exactly what you’re looking at yet, signal triangulation means that your phone’s Wi-Fi may be telling retailers more about you.
A new development in the holiday shopping rush will allow retailers to track your movements through the store as long as you have a Wi-Fi enabled smartphone on you at the time. The signal your phone sends out as it searches for nearby Wi-Fi networks is caught by routers within the store, which use a set network to triangulate your exact location within the store.
Wi-Fi signals can tell how long you spent in a store, what sections you visited, and even if you’ve been there before, and they can do this without informing you that you’re being monitored. Certain companies use this technology to gain your phone’s ID number, called a MAC address, to distinguish you from other customers every time you return.
Whilst some stores have argued that they only gather the information to provide a more satisfactory shopping experience to their customers, there is increased public awareness about data gathering. Many see the tracking of Wi-Fi signals as just another way to invade consumer privacy for the sake of reaping marketing rewards.