How to stop retailers from tracking you with your cell phone

Companies are zeroing on our phones as we walk around. Here's how to stop that

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It probably doesn't surprise you that retailers are trying to track your every move, in the name of improving store services and selling you more stuff. Just carrying your cell phone around is enough to tell them your shopping habits. If you'd like to hide your movements, there's a way to opt out and a way to stop the tracking.

The opt-out method is to head to www.smartstoreprivacy.org and enter your phone's MAC (media access control) address, the unique identifier for your device. You'll find instructions on that page for finding the MAC address for that device.

Once you've opted-out, the companies that have agreed to comply with the Future of Privacy Forum's opt-out program will no longer use your MAC address to capture which areas of a store and which products you visit or which marketing displays you hover around most. This data is normally collected anonymously and aggregated with other shoppers' data, but it's still a bit creepy.

Unfortunately, only a handful of marketing companies and retailers are part of this opt-out program. The better solution is to disable Wi-Fi and Bluetooth when you're out shopping, since those are the signals that emit your MAC address.

In case you don't remember to do this, AVG's PrivacyFix is an app for Android that automatically turns off Wi-Fi when you leave the house (bonus: better battery life). Also, iOS 8, expected this fall, is supposed to include a privacy feature that will randomize your MAC address.

[h/t Kiplinger's]

Read more of Melanie Pinola’s Tech IT Out blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Melanie on Twitter at @melaniepinola. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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