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Stores can see where you go by tracking your phone

Retail tracking, a relatively new phenomenon that uses the Wi-Fi signal from your smartphone, gives retailers details about shoppers’ habits.
Retail tracking, a relatively new phenomenon that uses the Wi-Fi signal from your smartphone, gives retailers details about shoppers’ habits.Brennan Linsley /Associated Press/File 2013

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Should shoppers turn off their smartphones when they hit the mall? Or does having them on lead to better sales or shorter lines at the cash register?

Retailers are using mobile-based technology to track shoppers’ movements at some malls and stores. The companies collecting the information say it’s anonymous and can’t be traced to a specific person, so no one should worry about invasion of privacy.

But consumer advocates aren’t convinced. It’s spying, they say, and shoppers should be informed their phones are being monitored and then be able to choose whether to allow it.

The Federal Trade Commission says it wants to better understand how companies are using phone-location technology, how robust privacy controls are, and whether shoppers are notified in advance.

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