YOU NEVER KNOW WHO IS WATCHING
It is always creepy having that feeling that you are being watched; someone somewhere may or may not know exactly what you are doing right at this very second. Is there a face behind that security camera at this very second? Did you parents put a GPS in your car without you knowing it? I know from personal experience: It sucks giving away information without being aware of it, especially if you aren’t sure of the consequences.
Well get ready to get creeped out ever more! According a recent NPR blog post, when Apple updated their operating system two months ago, they made changes to iBeacon, an indoor position system that can “notify nearby iOS 7 devices of their presence.” This system is based off of Bluetooth, and allows stores to track their customer’s movements and eventually capitalize off of them.
So pretend you are Macy’s and are looking in the shoe department for a new pair of kicks. Well iBeacon can notify Macy’s of where exactly you are, and then send you a coupon for shoes. Before the update, however, this app only worked when it was open, so customers could easily shut off the Bluetooth and stop being tracked. But with the system update, this app now runs all the time, even when it is closed.
I don’t know about you, but this wigs me out a little bit.
And what is ever creepier is that Apple decided not to make this update public, and has only come to the forefront of the marketing industry once people began working on iBeacon marketing products and started to realize changes.
According to industry Doug Thompson, it proved difficult to convince customers to open a location-tracking app every time they were in a store. But those problems are gone. Now, if you spend a longer period of time in a certain department of a store, marketers will be able to better guess your habits and interests, and get to you spend more. They can even know if you are close to the back of the store or the front, which could encourage them to send you deals to get some last minute sales.
Most people would assume that if an app is closed, than information is not being sent, and it was probably done this way on purpose. The only way a consumer would know all of the details about iBeacon would be if they visited the Apple website. By downloading the app, you automatically agree to all of their practices, even though it does not state when you download it that the app will stay open even when you close it.
Garrett Cobarr, a technologist writer, stated that “As a privacy researcher, I always get nervous when marketers are celebratory about something. Apple seems to ignore certain assumptions that people make about what’s happening on a device.” Cobarr makes a good point. It should not be the general assumption that people are going to know everything about technology. And marketers will utilize this ignorance as much as possible, especially when they are making a profit.
“I always get nervous when marketers are celebratory about something.” ~Cobarr
So what can you do? If you have iBeacon, and don’t like their practices, you can shut off the entire Bluetooth function on your phone to stop access. But that seems pretty cumbersome, so you can also just delete the app entirely.
And if you don’t have iBeacon, just keep in mind what you are downloading and who has access to your information. If you don’t care, don’t be surprised of future negative repercussions. Ask yourself where the line between convenience and privacy should be drawn. What do you define as going too far?
I was messaging my sister about this issue and I explained to her what iBeacon was. Her reply:
“So it tracks you around? Sounds like the NSA.”
Apple: achieving creeper status.
By: Grace Magnusson