How your phone is leaking data in the physical world

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How your phone is leaking data in the physical world.

If you own a modern (post 2012) phone, then you may have had a pop up at some time on your phone when in a shop or cultural or leisure centre. It may be that you found the pop up on your phone useful, you clicked it and it led to an webpage of the place you were in and gave a coupon or information for the location.

What you may not have known is that same technology can also being used to track your movements. Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) works by transmitting data to your phone over a very small distance (generally less than 7m). This is very useful in museums for instance, to tell you which room you are in and provide you with a map and information. In doing so your phone tells the beacon your MAC address (one of your phone’s unique identifiers).

Your mac address can thus be tracked as you move around the area covered with the transmitters, not all beacons will cause a popup, but it will receive your MAC address regardless to allow the tracking.

What’s the impact for the business? Tracking how people move around and where they stop allows for better product placement and keeping the flow moving. What’s the impact for you ? Tracking anonymous MAC addresses could mean that you do or don’t get offers depending on how often you are in the building. Imaging a regular shopper getting no offers, but a new shopper (new phone) being given the option of a voucher to help them become a customer.

Will you be keeping your Bluetooth on next time you enter a location, or turning it off to go stealth mode ?

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