back to article Macy's: Now with Apple's Minority Report ads system that TRACKS your iPHONE

Shoppers at the American department store Macy's are set to be the first to be tracked by Apple's controversial new iSpy system. A company called Shopkick has launched a pilot programme based on Apple's iBeacon software at its stores in San Francisco and New York. Its ShopBeacon system will greet customers and then treat them …


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  1. sabroni Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    fanbois can opt out by turning off their phone's location services.

    That's not opting out, that's disabling a useful feature of the device to stop it being used by anything. Clearly there is no opt out. You might as well say "fanbois can opt out by buying a samsung"....

    1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

      Re: fanbois can opt out by turning off their phone's location services.


      You might as well say "fanbois can opt out by buying a samsung"....

      Nice one....

      However, how long before Sammy say, 'Can't let Apple take all this lovely lucre from the Ad revenue' and introduce it themselves?

      I give it 6 months.

      1. 20legend

        Re: fanbois can opt out by turning off their phone's location services.

        The difference being that it doesn't matter one bit what Sammy do as there will always be the option to root and disable/uninstall that particular app, or better still just fuck-off the stock Touchwiz ROM and go for one that gives users a proper choice (and probably better performance) .....try doing that on yer iPhone.

        1. Seanie Ryan

          Re: fanbois can opt out by turning off their phone's location services.

          ok, open to correction here, but surely a message will pop up asking you to "allow' access to the App?

          And if not, anyway, you don't need to disable anything, just don't download the App. Very Very Simple solution.

          Think this article is a bit too much on the FUD side, instead of accurate reporting….. oh, crap, forgot i was on El Reg. Sorry, as you were then….

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: fanbois can opt out by turning off their phone's location services.

            And if not, anyway, you don't need to disable anything, just don't download the App. Very Very Simple solution.

            The fruity firm quietly slipped iBeacon technology in with the release of iOS7. It allows Cupertino and its commercial allies to track the movements of fanbois and gurlz

            someone isnt reading it properly

      2. Adam 1

        Re: fanbois can opt out by turning off their phone's location services.

        > However, how long before Sammy say, 'Can't let Apple take all this lovely lucre from the Ad revenue' and introduce it themselves?

        Nah. If Samsung were to copy Apple on such a feature in the next 6 months it would have been on a Sammy phone 2 years ago.

    2. Mike Bell

      Re: fanbois can opt out by turning off their phone's location services.


      Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Stupid. Wrong.

      Settings | Privacy | Location Services

      shows a list of apps that you wish to partake in location services. Don't want the Shopkick app to speak to you in this way? Turn off Location Services for the Shopkick app.

      1. sabroni Silver badge

        Re: Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Stupid. Wrong.

        Stupid? For not knowing the intracacies of the iOS settings screens? Fuck off.

        I quoted the line I had a problem with, if you disagree with the article that's fine, but I didn't write it.

        1. Mike Bell

          Re: Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Stupid. Wrong.

          @sabroni 14:11

          You said "Clearly there is no opt out".

          Thanks for your expert advice. Which happens to be wrong. Which bit of wrong don't you understand? Which bit of stupid don't you understand when you make pronouncements on which you have no knowledge?

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      If the shop offers substantial discounts for leaving it on..... Maybe.

      If it is to plague mr with ads I will take a hammer to it.

      There should be permissions involved in this but not to the extent that it asks every 2 mins.

      And No means No.

      1. Sebastian A

        Re: Discounts

        No? OK we'll ask again later.

        Oh sorry that's YouTube. My bad.

    4. Wanda Lust

      Re: fanbois can opt out by [...] not installing the ShopKick app.

      A responder to my comment on this subject, earlier in the week, suggested that I might find the reporting on Ars Technica more to my liking. He may be right, this sort of sensationalist crap is more Daily Mail than tech press.

      The iBeacon technology relies on the smartphone having the ShopKick app (or other similar app) installed: the BLE beacon transmits a code sequence that's recognisable to the app on the phone. The beacon doesn't harvest data & stream it back to some big data platform, it's self powered and relocatable.

      So the phone picks up the beacon's transmission, if it's an iOS device with an iBeacon compatible app installed, the app will do something which involves contacting it's back-end service, passing the identity of the beacon which results in a message from the beacon's sponsors. How's that different to using a fkin web browser on a PC and seeing the result of tracking cookies popping up relevant for y'all to read.

      The utility of the iBeacon service is user instigated.

  2. Danny 5

    Gone in 60 seconds

    The moment my mobile starts annoying me, out of the blue, with messages about potential good deals in the store i'm in, i will throw it on the ground and repeatedly stomp my heel on it.

    What the hell!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Gone in 60 seconds

      i will throw it on the ground and repeatedly stomp my heel on it.

      Is that the 4in or 5in stiletto then ducky?

      1. Danny 5

        Re: Gone in 60 seconds

        5 obviously, i'm a pro!

    2. Joseph Eoff

      Re: Gone in 60 seconds

      No, I'm not gonna destroy my phone. I'm going to turn the bitchy little program off and complain to the store manager.

  3. Steve Todd

    So you need to have downloaded an app

    And not deleted it, and not disabled location services (which can be done on a per-app basis) to finally get location based adverts trying to sell you stuff. It seems to me that if you've got that far then you actually were interested in seeing what the shop had to sell you.

    1. Danny 5

      Re: So you need to have downloaded an app

      Not the way i see it. the Ispy is on at all times, this app just utilizes it's functions. They can track you through the beacon anyway, the app just shouts deals at you.

      1. guybles

        Re: So you need to have downloaded an app

        Just think, technology that can transmit information to and receive information from a handheld electronic device. Whatever will these crazy computer geeks think of next?

        (hint: if you turn BlueTooth off, then the iBeacon technology is useless to track you atall)

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: So you need to have downloaded an app

          "(hint: if you turn BlueTooth off, then the iBeacon technology is useless to track you atall)"

          Idiots leave Bluetooth switched on! (iPhone anyone)

  4. Big_Ted

    Two things....

    As someone who hates shopping it was annoying enough having sales assistants asking if I need help like I can't decide without their input.

    Now my phone wants to waste my time, track my every move and most likely report all this back to base.....

    Like fuck will I accept that, Apple have ensured they will not have me as a customer and if Android tries this I will only stick with it if there are ROMS to load that have it taken out. This is most definately evil so Google should stay away....

    1. Don Jefe

      Re: Two things....

      To be fair to retail sales people (I spent my youth on a showroom floor) you really do have to engage the customer and ask if you can help them. If they don't need/want your help you just drift off and wait for them to have that 'look' (either they have a question or they've shat themselves).

      If you don't offer help to everyone the results are immediate and bad, especially with more expensive items. You're known as the place that doesn't care and doesn't help. The flip side of that are the shitty salespeople that can't leave well enough alone and pester the shit out of you. Personally I think the move away from commissioned salespeople was a tremendous mistake. They've now got no incentive to develop their people assessment skills, or learn the products, so you get annoying little shits that pester you and are actually incapable of helping you.

      Anyway, try to take it easy on the retail salespeople. It's a difficult and thankless job. It is perfectly fine to tell then you don't need help and you'll find them if you do (it's actually nice when people say that) but they are required to offer their help :)

      1. Irongut

        Re: Two things....

        Retail staff have always been incapable of helping me. As someone who can read I don't need them to read the spec off the card next to the item or the price tag for me. Maybe some people find that useful though.

    2. Mark Allen

      Re: Two things....

      I agree with you Big_Ted. Nothing more annoying that some idiot sales kid trying to push some crap at you. Especially in electronics stores where they are usually so clueless all they do is read the labels at you. When shops do that to me, I generally walk straight out of the door. Normally saying "Sorry - I thought this was a shop for grown-ups. I'll go elsewhere".

      If a phone did that, then I'd again start avoiding those products. Amazes me how "Sales" people think the only thing we care about is their shoddy products.

      @Don Jefe: I understand that is it "Management" telling the staff to harass the customers, and not directly the fault of the shop floor staff. But when I am clearly trying to *avoid* eye contact then they should take the hint that I don't need "assistance"

      1. Don Jefe

        Re: Two things....

        It isn't that simple though. You guys are fringe cases (and I'd bet $50 I could get you to walk out of the store with a different purchase than you had planned and you'd feel good about the decision. The self informed and irritable customers are the easiest sell, they just don't know it) the overwhelming majority of retail customers are fairly ignorant and their ignorance makes them shy. They don't want to ask for help for fear of appearing dumb.

        If nobody helps them, or at least offers, then they're far more likely to make a bad purchase and that doesn't help anyone. You'll lose a customer, lose 150% of the value of the item if it's returned and possibly have put the customer out of the potential buying group for someone else.

        Most people do want to be helped. They wouldn't be in the store otherwise. They either want to see what it is they're considering or they really don't know and are there for a bit of product education. Often it's the person that knows exactly what they want who need the help the most. If they were as confident in their decision as they let on they would have just ordered it online.

        1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

          Re: Two things....

          You obviously have not tried to sell to a fully paid up member of the 'Grumpy Old Man' Club.

          We are those curmudgeons who know what they want and no amount of sales bullshit will deter us.

          It is no use saying, 'Sorry, none in stock today. We are expecting some next week.

          If you do, we will be gone whoosh out the door we go.

          As for the salesdroids 'How can I help you'. You will get a polite 'No Thanks' the first time.

          The second time you can expect 'No!'.

          If you have the temerity to ask a third time, you will get an 'Eff Off Twat' (or similar verbals)

          We know the price we will pay. Woe betide you trying to flog a 3rd years warrany for 10quid on a 29.95 item. Suddenly the sale that you thought was yours will be gone in a flash.

          Get the idea?

          1. Don Jefe

            Re: Two things....

            Those things you're talking about are silly tricks for children, that's not sales. I'm (or any good sales person) not interested in you buying an extended warranty, I'm not interested in up selling you. I'm interested in getting you what you want. Now, I'm going to double check and make sure the thing you want is going to do what you actually want it to do, and if it isn't I'll suggest something else. That's my job. But I'll sell you whatever you want.

            And you'll come back to me next time you need something I sell. And the next time and the next time. A customer who buys only once is the same thing as no sale at all. You'll come back to me even when a competitor has a better price and give me the opportunity to meet that price, because you know I'm not going to bullshit you. Hell, you might still buy it if I don't come off the price. You'll send your friends and family to me by the simple act of telling them where you (whose opinion they respect) bought it.

            But the thing is, you will buy and you will buy it from me. You've already proven through the act of coming into the store you will respond to marketing materials and embedded calls to action (just like you did by clicking on this story then reading the comments) and you've proven you'll respond to a 3rd party (by responding to a comment). You're a guaranteed sale.

            You're also on guard for all the wrong things. I wasn't kidding when I said the self informed and irritable customers were the easiest sells. There aren't any exceptions or surprises in sales, only salespeople who misread their customers and the guy with his defenses up is the easiest to turn and the easiest to keep cause it's nearly impossible to misread them.

            For the time you're in my store you are the most important thing in the world to me and I'm not about to mess it up for $20. You've done everything you were directed to do and now it's my job to finish that cycle. You'll think you've won, and outsmarted the sales guy, but my wallet is the one that just got a little bigger... Enjoy your new thing and I'll see you next time.

  5. M Gale

    Can't be right.

    Only Google would do something like this.

    Or was I right when I said there's too much money in it and everyone's doing it?

    1. Sporkinum

      Re: Can't be right.

      Wikipedia says android too. And like another person said, it's bluetooth, so I suppose you can just turn that off and not be bothered.

      "Compatible devices

      iOS devices with Bluetooth 4.0 (iPhone 4s and later, iPad 3 and later, iPod touch 5, iPad mini)

      Android devices with Bluetooth 4.0 and Android 4.3 and later (Samsung Galaxy S3/S4, Samsung Galaxy Note II, HTC One, Nexus 7 2013 edition, Nexus 4, HTC Butterfly, Droid DNA)"

  6. C Montgomery Burns

    "...It’s one way to engage consumers with the products."

    If by "engage", you mean "Annoy the f%$# out of.", then sure.

    My phone would do this to me exactly once. If I were unable to disable that "feature" easily, it would no longer be the phone I carry.

  7. Eddy Ito

    They track you anyway

    I took my mother to return pjs she had bought for my niece but she couldn't find her receipt. The nice lady at the desk said it wasn't a problem because the tag was still on. She scanned the tag and asked, "Mrs. Ito your refund is $x.xx, would you like that put back on your "xyz" card?" My mother said sure and the young lady hit a few keys and handed her a slip to sign and said she was all set. As we walked out I asked my mother how the employee knew her name because my mother never said it. She never had to hand over her card or tell the clerk which card or even that she bought it with a discount. As proof that it's all connected, the original purchase was in San Francisco and the return was in Los Angeles and all the information was pulled up just by scanning the tag on the clothes, no questions asked.

  8. Tom 35

    I wonder if it can be spoofed

    Oh look we have 467 customers in the sock department.

    1. Adam 1

      Re: I wonder if it can be spoofed

      Oh the pranks. I wonder if you can get the targeted ads to believe a colleague frequents the women's lingerie department for days at a time.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Such a load of bull in the article

    First of all, this wasn't "quietly slipped in", Apple brought it up when talking about iOS 7, but didn't say a whole lot about it since it wasn't useful for anything. Second, Apple didn't invent Beacons, Paypal (i.e. Ebay) did.

    iBeacon is Apple's implementation of an open standard. Since Android now supports BLE (bluetooth low energy) as of 4.3 or maybe it was 4.4, newer Android phones with BLE capable hardware will be able to be "tracked" while in stores the same way. I hope everyone realizes that if they carry a phone there are already several ways to track them, BLE narrows it down so it would for instance be useful to determine your movements in a store - and provide directions, so it isn't all bad. I don't particularly care if Macy's knows my traffic pattern when I visit, though I'm sure they're more interested in typical traffic patterns to determine ways to lay out the store better to increase sales etc.

    There will almost certainly be some Android phones that implement Beacons. Samsung will probably call it S Beacon go along along with all their other S named stuff. So don't feel superior for your supposedly untrackable phones for too long!

  10. boo

    Such vitriol

    You guys all need to get a life. Frankly I see this as a value add and frankly why would I care where Macy's decides to track me in the store? All the criticism is a bit unfounded. Yes, I can turn off location tracking for specific apps but then again why download the app at all if I have difficulty in someone tracking my movements in the first place? If you download the app only to discover this functionality you can A) turn off location tracking for that app or, better yet B) delete the app.

    Coming back to my original point however, no single Google user or Android user seems to have an issue with your movements tracked via a web browser. When I use Google Maps to provide me with directions I don't care too much that Google is saving that information for later use. When I click on an ad I don't think twice about Google storing that information on me. Why do I really care if Macy's tracks my movements in the store. Well, they may learn something about my habits and serve me discounts to stuff I may buy anyway. At the end of the day this is the 21st Century. As Scott McNealy said so many years ago "...there is no more privacy! Get over it!"

  11. gap

    Simple fix - delete it!

    Why not just delete the app? That's what I do with all the other spam, malware and adware.

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