Tags: smartphone | Wi-Fi | Turnstyle | location

Your Smartphone Is Telling Your Secrets

By    |   Wednesday, 15 January 2014 10:07 AM

New companies that gather information from Wi-Fi-enabled cell phones and sell that information to retailers and other businesses that want to know your habits are sprouting up, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Companies such as Toronto-based Turnstyle Solutions provide customer analytics to businesses by tracking consumer's locations with Wi-Fi-enabled smart devices.

By placing sensors in businesses, these companies are able to track a customer's every move, if the Wi-Fi on the phone is turned on. The sensors follow signals emitted from Wi-Fi-enabled phones, which in essence depicts a clear picture of consumer's locations, behavior and habits as they go about their daily activities.

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According to The Globe and Mail, every Wi-Fi-enabled smartphone constantly sends out signals looking for Wi-Fi networks to join, while also emitting a unique identifier known as a Media Access Control (MAC) address.

Turnstyle listens for the smartphones that broadcast their MAC addresses looking for Wi-Fi hotspots. When the MAC address is received, the code is changed into another unique identifier, which can't be traced to the user. However, the Turnstyle system will remember if the same smartphone returns to that spot, The Globe and Mail reported.

Toronto restaurant owner Fan Zhang knows the details of his customer's activities without them even uttering a word. "Instead of offering a general promotion that may or may not hit a nerve, we can promote specifically to the customer's taste," Zhang told The Journal.

Zhang began selling workout tank tops with his restaurant's logo because of the information he received that 250 of his customers in one month also went to the gym.

San Francisco-based start–up Euclid Analytics has also capitalized on providing location data with the use of sensors to analyze foot-traffic patterns, delivering retailers information about customer behavior.

As the value of location data grows, Verizon Wireless has begun collecting customer data for retailers and Apple released iBeacon, which integrates sensors extracting customer's smartphone signals in stores.

As consumers login to Facebook and Twitter, they are broadcasting their location and identity publicly. "People are probably unaware of how much they are making available," Mossab Basir, CEO of Viasense, another Toronto start-up, told The Journal.

This industry is bound to stir up privacy issues as the technology develops.

"We know there is more value to be extracted from this data. But we're wanting to move cautiously and turn on the tap slowly — in a way that doesn't offend customers," Chris Giplin, founder of Turnstyle, told The Journal.

In December, the Federal Trade Commission settled the first location privacy case against an app developer that misled consumers into believing their location data wouldn't be sold to marketers, The Journal reported.

With their mobile operating systems, Google and Apple can home in on the location of every customer's Wi-Fi-enabled phone; however, at this point they aren't making that data available to outside sources.

"Right now, the only way to opt-out of geolocation is to either switch off the Wi-Fi on a cell phone, or make a request through a website of one the data companies like Turnstyle that has an opt-out option," The Journal stated.

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New companies that gather information from Wi-Fi-enabled cell phones and sell that information to retailers and other businesses that want to know your habits are sprouting up, according to The Wall Street Journal.
smartphone,Wi-Fi,Turnstyle,location
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2014-07-15
Wednesday, 15 January 2014 10:07 AM
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