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The Scary Side of Shopping Apps: Eavesdropping, Tracking

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Is shopping app Shopkick eavesdropping on its users? That's the question pondered by Slate this week. Shoppers sign up for Shopkick because they are rewarded for using it, either with gift cards or other incentives. To qualify, Slate explains, you must disclose your name, cellphone number, zip code, email and access to your phone's microphone. The app, which boasts more than six million users, utilizes Apple's iBeacon—a technology that tracks users' "position and movements in places like stores and restaurants." According to the Shopkick privacy policy, it shares this information and other data it collects from monitoring your behavior with 'Affiliate Partners' (who are not disclosed). It also listens in when you're watching TV. From a portion of the policy highlighted by Slate:

[T]he Shopkick application may ask you to open the app while you are watching TV, and then we may record or analyze the audio signal from the television set via the Shopkick app and your cell phone's microphone, to determine the commercial, and/or program, including the date and/or time.
A spokesperson for Shopkick said that though the app does use your microphone when its open, it does not listen to human voices but instead is picking up "inaudible audio signals that are part of its in-store communication setup." On iTunes, many seem pleased with the rewards they've earned through the app—earned, it would seem, through giving up a lot of privacy.
· Shopkick [Official Site]
· Track Star [Slate]
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