Apple Cuts Off a Way to Secretly Track Shoppers

13-Jun- 2014

Apple (AAPL) is preparing to shut down a trick that companies you’ve never heard of
have been using to gather information about your shopping habits.

Unless the Wi-Fi capability of a phone is switched off, it is constantly sending out
signals,looking for a way to connect. These signals include a unique identification
number for your phone called a MAC address. Companies such as Euclid Analytics
and Nomi realized they could set up hardware in retail stores to collect these pings,
analyze the patterns, and sell what they learn to the retailers. Because people
never connect to these networks, a companylike Euclid doesn’t even have an
opportune moment to ask for permission.

These companies may not be able to connect your device to your name—although
that’s not as hard to figure it out as it sounds—but they’ll know when your device
visits the store.Starting this fall, iPhones will stop playing along. Apple recently
told developers that the new version of its operating system will randomize MAC
identifiers, as recently noted by Frederic Jacobs, a security researcher.