Stores Are Shopping for Data Through Your Phone

February 24, 2014 – In The News
Consumer Eagle

Scott L. Vernick was quoted in the Consumer Eagle article, "Stores Are Shopping for Data Through Your Phone." Full text can be found in the February 24, 2014, issue, but a synopsis is noted below.

While many consumers may be unaware it is taking place, stores are reading signals from cell phones and other mobile devices to track shoppers’ movements and preferences.

Stores are able to access devices through Internet, a Wi-Fi network or Bluetooth system, reading “probe requests” sent by the devices to search for networks they can connect to. The devices transmit a unique 12-digit media access code (MAC) with each request, allowing retailers to track statistics such as how many shoppers pass by a store in a day.

“The problem with stores tracking shoppers and collecting data arises if it is happening without a shopper’s knowledge or consent,” said Scott Vernick, a noted privacy attorney. “As a best practice, stores will likely be required to let people know, in an obvious and direct manner, that they are being tracked, and give them the option and information on how to opt out.”