[Nolug] retail cell tracking via wifi and bluetooth

From: Joey Kelly <joey_at_joeykelly.net>
Date: Tue, 24 Dec 2013 00:21:37 -0600
Message-ID: <52B927F1.1020308@joeykelly.net>

>From William B. Davis (on facebook):

"Retailers track your smartphone when you enter their store. They track
your movements through the store and keep a database with your unique id
called a MAC address. Every computer has one including smartphones
because they are networkable just like your home computer Then they can
monitor your return trips as well. To prevent this turn off your
Bluetooth and wifi."

Scary indeed. I wonder how legal it is.

My analysis:

I hadn't considered big-box stores sniffing for bluetooth and/or wifi.
Makes perfect sense, I guess. They might even be able to map your MAC
address to your purchase details and thus your identity, if they're
clever, by timing your stay at the cash register. I wonder what
percentage of users keep those two interfaces turned on, and what kind
of ROI the stores enjoy.

It's also possible to track cell devices directly via their GSM or CDMA
interface, regardless of whether bluetooth or wifi is turned on.
Equipment to receive cell signals isn't COTS by any means, and the risk
of getting sued by providers or fined by the FCC is much greater than
just recording wifi MAC addresses, since cell transmissions are licensed
and highly regulated, whereas bluetooth and wifi live in unlicensed

Joey Kelly
Minister of the Gospel and Linux Consultant
Nolug mailing list
Received on 12/24/13

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