>> How do Mobile Location Analytics (MLA) companies detect my MAC address?
>> Is my email or phone number broadcast as part of this transmission?
>> What do venues do with the information they get from MLA?
>> What happens when I opt-out of mobile location tracking?
>> How does the opt out work with Apple iOS 8?
>> What if I want give a company permission to collect my information and I’ve previously opted out?
>> What is MLA Code of Conduct, and who are the participating companies?
>> Can my MAC address be linked to my name, address, or any other personal information?
>> Are there other technologies that may be used to track my location in a venue?
>> What are beacon technologies and how are they different from mobile MAC address technologies?
Many cell phones have WiFi or Bluetooth capabilities built into them so you can do things like access the Internet or use a hands-free device. Your cell phone broadcasts a WiFi MAC Address or Bluetooth MAC address – a 12-digit string of letters and numbers assigned to your phone by its manufacturer that allows it to be detected by nearby WiFi or Bluetooth sensors. Venues use MLA technology – such as beacons or sensors – to detect when nearby cell phones broadcast their MAC addresses.
No. Your device’s MAC address looks like this: 68:A8:6D:E5:65:03. Since different device manufacturers have been assigned groups of MAC addresses to use, your MAC indicates if your device is made by Apple, Samsung or another company. Using the unique MAC address and its proximity to a sensor, MLA technology can chart the path of the device at a venue. Your email, phone number or other personal information are not part of this transmission.
Venues use MLA data to create summary reports that help them better understand their customers’ experience. Some of the reasons venues use MLA technology are:
- To learn how long customers typically wait in line at certain times of day.
- To see which products and locations in a store are most popular.
- To understand which marketing displays are most effective.
- To make sure enough employees are available to help customers.
- To improve emergency evacuation plans.
Here are some examples of MLA reports.
When you opt out of mobile location tracking, companies that have signed on to the MLA Code of Conduct (“participating companies”) will no longer associate information about your presence at a venue with a MAC address. These companies will use your MAC address only to maintain the device’s opt-out status.
Keep in mind that you can also avoid having your MAC address collected by turning your WiFi or Bluetooth signal off before you enter stores that use MLA technology.
Devices that run Apple's iOS 8 operating system periodically change their WiFi MAC address from time to time. This is in contrast to most non-Apple devices, or Apple devices that still run earlier versions of the iOS operating system, which instead use a static (i.e. non-changing) MAC address.
Mobile Location Analytics works by recognizing a device's MAC address. However, because iOS 8 changes the MAC address of an Apple device periodically, tracking of iOS 8 devices is effective only for the period until the device's MAC address changes, at which point the tracking will be reset. Once the MAC address changes, the device will then effectively be tracked as if it were an entirely new (and different) device.
Owners of iOS 8 devices that wish to opt-out of Mobile Location Analytics can still do so by visiting the Smart Store Privacy Opt Out Page. However, since this opt out works by recognizing the MAC address of an opted-out device, in the case of iOS 8 devices, any such opt out will be reset when the device's MAC address changes.
If you give a participating company express permission to collect, use or share your MLA information, this will override your opt out for that company.
The MLA Code of Conduct is an enforceable, self-regulatory framework for the services provided to venues by MLA Companies. It puts data protection standards in place to ensure that MLA technology is used responsibly. Among other requirements, companies that have signed on to the Code must:
- Provide a detailed privacy notice on their website describing the information they collect.
- Promptly de-identify or de-personalize the MAC addresses they collect.
- Ensure that MLA data is not used for adverse purposes (like employment or healthcare treatment eligibility, for instance).
- Retain MLA data for a limited time only.
- Provide customers with the opportunity to opt out of mobile location tracking.
The companies currently participating are:
Click to read the full Code of Conduct.
Companies following the Code have committed that they will not link your MAC address to any personal information, such as your name and address, without your affirmative consent.
Beacons broadcast their unique ID using low energy Bluetooth signals. If a user downloads an app and gives permission to the app, the app may listen for beacons to detect and help an app determine proximity to a beacon. Unlike mobile location analytics technologies, they do not detect or collect MAC addresses. Beacons are simply marks that your phone and apps using your phone can take advantage of to understand more precisely where a user is. For more information on beacons, please read Do Beacons Track You? No, You Track Beacons.