iOS 8 has been full of surprises, and if the latest one works the way we think it will, you will have much more control over masking your identity from retail store marketer spying.
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Changes in how iOS 8 scans for Wi-Fi networks will stop marketer spying

Apple Store Flatirons Crossing

iOS 8 has been full of surprises, and if the latest one works the way we think it will, you will have much more control over masking your identity from retail store marketer spying.  Over the weekend @FredericJacobs tweeted that iOS 8 will randomize the MAC address while scanning for WiFi networks (if user has active). 

A MAC address, otherwise know as a Media Access Control address, is a unique identifier assigned to network interfaces so that your device can communicate on a specific network. When you have your iPhone Wi-Fi turned on, even if you are not connected to a specific Wi-Fi address, your device continues to scan for available networks.  When this is happening, your location can be pin-pointed by a retail store to within a 10 ft radius–even if you never connect to the store Wi-Fi.  This is invaluable information for the store, because they can track shopper patterns and even recognize you when you return to a store because each mobile phone sends a unique code when they are actively searching for a network.

iOS-generates-random-MAC-address-for-WiFi

You can imagine the wealth of information that can be extrapolated from tracking of this sort.  If the customer also downloads and uses a retail store app, or provides additional identifying information like an email address when signing up for Wi-Fi, more personal information is essentially volunteered to the retail store allowing them to create profiles of their customers.

It’s not all bad, though.  Now while the idea retail stores knowing where you are in there store at any given time as well as what your are shopping for, and when you were in the store last might not be what everyone wants.  However, there are still some who welcome the “convenience” with open arms.  The idea of having a store know when you’ve arrived, and possibly offer sale recommendations or coupons based on your shopping history is worth the privacy trade-off for many.

How is Apple addressing this issue in iOS 8?  Now when scanning for Wi-Fi connections, your iOS device will use random, locally administered MAC addresses.  As a result, the MAC address used for Wi-Fi scan may not always be the device’s universal address.  In other words, the retail store would still know you are there, they just won’t know who “you” are based on history or any other saved information.  Big implications here.  What are your thoughts?

[via: Loop]

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