Retail stores are tracking users movements through their cell phones

MeonGeolocationThis is the latest, “It’s spooky, but is it wrong?” privacy story.

Stores listen for customers’ cell phones as they probe for WiFi hot-spots, then use that information to observe foot traffic in the store.  Perhaps the data is anonymized, but consumers, I’m sure, won’t be comfortable with it.  Earlier this year, Nordstrom ended an in-store cell phone tracking trial after negative consumer reaction, for example.

Last month, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) announced an industry agreement, with location tracking firms voluntarily agreeing to a code of conduct. It includes conspicuous signage and the opportunity to opt out.

Here, I discuss the new technology with NBC’s Chris Clackum.

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About Bob Sullivan 1637 Articles
BOB SULLIVAN is a veteran journalist and the author of four books, including the 2008 New York Times Best-Seller, Gotcha Capitalism, and the 2010 New York Times Best Seller, Stop Getting Ripped Off! His latest, The Plateau Effect, was published in 2013, and as a paperback, called Getting Unstuck in 2014. He has won the Society of Professional Journalists prestigious Public Service award, a Peabody award, and The Consumer Federation of America Betty Furness award, and been given Consumer Action’s Consumer Excellence Award.


  1. Employers frequently request that their staff members install company-provided applications on their mobile devices. Then, you can use these apps to find out where you are. Additionally, if the GPS tracking function is active on the phone that was provided by your employer, they can follow your whereabouts using that information.

  2. iPhones and Android smartphones can be tracked even when there is no cell coverage. Without an internet connection, your phone’s mapping applications can locate it. When you have a data connection, the GPS employs Assisted GPS, often known as A-GPS.

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