Macy’s Joins Forces with Shopkick to Track iPhones in Stores

Posted by at 5:08 pm on November 21, 2013

If you’re a Macy’s shopper and an  iPhone owner, you may be able to score a few hot deals — provided you don’t mind a few nosy apps tracking your every move, that is.

The process is voluntary, but if you download an app called Shopkick and use an iOS device while you’re out and about, Macy’s will be able to track your every move within one of its stores and send you notifications about deals and items that might pique your interest.

How It Works

Shopkick is an iOS and Android app that rewards you for wandering around and shopping at retail stores, and gives you points that you can redeem for gift cards. For shopaholics, it’s, admittedly, a pretty handy system.

iBeacon is a feature available in all iOS 7 devices that uses a low-power Bluetooth transmission to broadcast a user’s location. This allows Apple — or app developers leveraging Apple technology — to track users inside buildings, where satellite transmissions may not come through.

Combining the two services, Macy’s is pioneering a program that can track iOS 7 devices in its stores and direct Shopkick users to items in their proximity that may be of interest. This means that, based on your preferences and purchase history, the app might direct you to a nice pair of shoes or a marked-down shirt that you’d otherwise pass by.

Right now, the program is only available in Macy’s Herald Square location in NYC and in its Union Square store in San Francisco, but should roll out to other stores across the United States within a few weeks.

Don’t think that keeping Shopkick deactivated will grant you privacy, either: the app will autostart whenever you enter a store and start tracking your movements.

To be fair, this service could be very useful, especially to bargain hunters who often shop alone and wouldn’t mind a companion app that rewards you for purchases you might have made anyway. For others, it may be too way Orwellian for comfort.

Matter of Privacy

Shopkick sells cheap transmitters to retail stores in order to monitor customer movements. Fair enough: You know what you’re getting into once you download the app. However, there’s little to prevent an enterprising stalker from getting his hands on one and tracking a target within, say, an apartment building.

If you want out, then you’ll have to either uninstall Shopkick, disable iOS 7 location services, or use the app on the Android OS, which does not have anything akin to iBeacon at present.

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