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Some retailers can track your smartphone

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Some retailers can track your smartphone

By Daniel Gutierrez. CREATED Nov 22, 2013

Las Vegas, NV (KTNV) -- Are smartphones violating your privacy? You may not realize it, but your device may allow some stores to follow your every move as you shop.

They're with us every where we go. We're talking about your smartphone. And during the holidays, plenty of us are logging onto store apps or surfing the web to comparison shop. But did you know retailers offering free wireless Internet may be using it to collect information about you?

"If you walk into a store and your Android or iPhone device is turned on to accept Wi-Fi, they can track the device," says Curt Miller, founder of Anexeon, an I.T. service provider in Las Vegas.

He said while stores may not be able to identify you personally, they can watch where your phone is going.

"They can track what department that device likes to hang out in. They can track what door the person or the device always enters. They can get some information about the pattern, the habits of the device," said Curt.

"What do you think about that?" asked Tricia Kean.

"I don't like it. I don't think they need to know where I go, what I look at," said Jill, a valley shopper.

"I understand why they're doing it. They want to determine how people shop and what's important to them," said Lynda, another shopper.

That's exactly right. Chris Spiro, CEO of a marketing and advertising company said retailers want to know as much as possible about their customers.

"Did you come in specifically to go look at housewares? Or did you come in specifically to look at furniture? As a consumer, that profile is valuable," said Chris.

But there's even more than just tracking you through the store they could potentially see if you're using their Wi-Fi.

"They know if you went to Facebook. They know if you went to another retailer. They know if you went pretty much every where. They know all that because they're the ones sending your signal onto the Internet," said Curt.

And it could go even further. If you download a store's app, it may allow them to collect much much more.

"You're accepting their terms, you're logging into their site. You don't know what that app is doing in the backend," said Curt.

Fortunately there's an easy way to prevent anyone from tracking you. And some shoppers already know the answer.

"You could just turn it off if it was really a problem for you. But for me it's not," said Jerome, a valley shopper.

So here's the Contact 13 bottom line: Understand the privacy settings on your phone and simply turn off your wifi unless you need it.

Contact 13 reached out to a list of major retailers about whether they track their customers. Some said they do not track customers.

The Home Depot: "No, we do not track customers or collect data on customers while they shop."

Family Dollar: "While we do have a social media program that includes Facebook as well as opt-in email distribution lists, we do not trace customer smartphones."

Target sent us a link in regards to their wireless service privacy notice. Click here to read it.

Some retailers did not respond to our request for information about whether they track customers. They include Walmart, Best Buy and Nordstrom.

If you have a consumer issue, we've got your back Las Vegas. Email us at 13investigates@ktnv.com and we'll see what we can do to help.