Companies using smartphone data to track shoppers

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Smartphone spies that have been watching your every move at some of America's biggest stores are causing a controversy.

We all know that anytime you walk into any store, there are eyes on you. Surveillance cameras have been tracking customers - both good and bad - for years. Now, stores are tracking your cell phone, says Dr. Sam Liles of Purdue University.

"But there are companies out there that do this cell service and when you walk through the door, it registers your cell number. You don't have to do anything, there is nothing you do, the only way you have, in the way of privacy, is to turn the cell phone off and even that isn't necessarily perfect," Liles said.

Before coming to Purdue, Liles helped stores track customers with all types of technology. Cell phones, cameras, everything were at his disposal. He says to think of all the information on your phone - pictures, Facebook "likes," contacts, Twitter - that is information retailers and bad guys really want.

"People don't realize the apps that allows us to track you, allows us to track you!" said Liles.

He says the idea of tracking you through a store is supposed to help the store management better lay out the facility and help reduce theft, but there is reason to be concerned about your privacy.

"So tracking people, but there are other types of things - where do people go, how do they do things, what do they stop and look at. How do you identify, how do you deanonymize is a key piece of this," said Liles.

By using your cell phone or smartphone signal, retailers will be able to build a digital profile of you. They know where you go in the store, what you buy or what you might buy. Eventually, the retailer will be able to send you coupons when you walk down a certain aisle. In other words, you are not just a shopper...but a digital footprint.

"I'm talking about a digital representation of you. You have this avatar of your identity. That avatar, I will tell you right now, we will hold you accountable for that," said Liles.

Stores that are doing cell phone surveillance do offer opt-out options. If you have a concern about a store watching you and your phone, leave the phone in the car.

Opt out of cell phone tracking