Big corporations have come up with a brilliant but seriously terrifying way to monitor what you’re doing – and it’s all to do with your phone.
It seems almost every store has its own wifi network that shoppers can use these days.
But experts have warned that consumers should be careful what they sign up for when browsing the internet.
The companies use smart software that can track each person’s phone location so closely that it can determine exactly how long they spend looking at certain products on certain shelves.
And it’s not just about spying over wifi. Some stores now also use facial recognition technology, which landed last week Kmart, Bunnings and The Good Guys have issues with Choice.
“For anyone trying to keep their personal information private, it’s not fair. Every person has the right to their privacy,” said Rafig Jabrayilov, Internet 2.0 security engineer.
“Buying something in a store shouldn’t mean you have to share your personal information.”
Businesses can track the physical location of their customers through easily accessible information delivered through their smartphones.
Apple and Android devices emit radio waves with a diameter of between 10 and 20 meters that broadcast its MAC (Media Access Control) address – a 12-digit code that is unique and identifies each device.
Stores, like Nordstrom in the US – at the center of a bomb New York Timesitem – can implement sensors in physical stores that return accurate information about consumer behavior.
Mr Jabrayilov said whether the technique qualifies as PII (personally identifiable information) under privacy law was “debatable”, given that it only offered information about the device.
He argued that this was problematic when used in conjunction with facial recognition technology, given that together they exposed a significant volume of personal information.
In a feature designed to prevent companies from using MAC address information to obtain consumer details, most Android and iPhone devices now had a feature that made tracking particularly difficult.
“They’ve created a new feature called MAC address randomization, which generates fake MAC addresses while you’re in the store,” Jabrayilov explained.
Every 40 minutes, 20 MAC addresses are generated, he said, making it nearly impossible for the retailer to get accurate information.
He said major Australian retailers were also involved in tracking consumer devices through their camera faces, but he was unable to pass on the names of outlets.
“They basically try to identify your gender, which store you stay in the most, how many people pass and enter the stores, and which section they stay in the most,” Mr Jabrayilov said.
As more became known about companies’ increased abilities to obtain consumer information, Mr. Jabrayilov argued that little was known about how this information was stored and how it was stored. were protected against hackers.
Mr. Jabrayilov pointed out that technology often advances at a faster rate than the legal system, which means that consumers can be at greater risk of being exploited early in the development of a product.
He compared MAC address tracking to the way shoppers were tracked online, which gave companies insight into how long customers stayed on their websites, what they spent the most time looking at. and the products for which they showed interest.
However, a gray area still exists as to whether this falls under privacy and human rights laws, Mr Jabrayilov said.
He recommended consumers check their phone settings to make sure their random MAC address feature has been enabled.
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