iOS 8 makes it harder for retailers to track your location without iBeacons



Starting with iOS 8, Apple is making it impossible for marketers to track you based on your iPhone’s MAC address.

When you walk around a store with your iPhone’s WiFi on, you’re are unknowingly transmitting your MAC address, a unique identifier for your device. Routers need the identifier to join you to a network. Ad agencies and retailers have been tracking these addresses to help offer personalized advertisements to customers based on where they’ve been.

Apple is putting a stop to this practice with MAC address scrambling in iOS 8, which could turn out to be a big win for iBeacon.

The change makes it impossible for you to be tracked consistently via MAC address like before, but Apple could also have an ulterior motive behind the decision. iBeacon, a standard Apple introduced in iOS 7, will likely be pushed as the only way for retailers to track iPhones based on location.

iBeacons have already been integrated into popular retail stores, sports stadiums, and museums, but the company is planning to boost iBeacons even more with iOS 8. Using iBeacons, a feature in the developer beta shows a shortcut to an app associated with where you are. So when you walk into the Apple Store, the icon for the Apple Store app appears on the corner of your lockscreen.


Since MAC addresses will be useless for tracking iPhones from place to place, many more marketers and retailers will likely turn to iBeacons in the months to come.

  • iBeacons are push only, they don’t read information from phones. If a store wants to track you using iBeacons they’ll have to program that into their store apps and get you to run those apps in their stores.

    • Windlasher

      How does push only work? Wouldn’t they interfere with each other in close proximity? If you are at a mall and Booth A which is sitting next to Booth B both have ibeacons, how would it differentiate and know what to push at you?

      Would not the phone have to tell the ibeacon which one you are closest to?

      • Sorry, _broadcast_ only. There’s no two-way communication with iBeacons.

      • David

        Although, beacons can act as psuedo-middle-men between your phone (and app) and a server, so a user could potentially send back communication to the server–in essence creating a two-way communication tagged with the beacon location data. To your point, though, this would have to be programed into the app.

  • M rB

    Not to be one of those people, but the motive (4th paragraph) would be “ulterior”, not “anterior”. Pardonnez moi.

  • EdisonCarter

    It’s very simple..

    WiFi tracking was opt-out – and good luck opting out at all especially if it’s the government doing the tracking. iBeacons are opt-in, you need to install an app and accept to be tracked, that’s the only way it works.

    Which do you prefer as a consumer/citizen? Do you rather be tracked unwillingly or have a choice?

    I hate articles that make it seem iBeacons track you. They don’t. They – deliberately, by design – only transmit. YOU, through your phone, are actually the one tracking the stores.