Marketers have come up with a new way to track a given customer's movement: put a drone on them. According to Venturebeat, a marketing company called Adnear is using drones as part of a test campaign to track user locations through device IDs. It's similar to what marketers already do in stores and malls, but by using mobile drones, Adnear is able to track users in new places where pre-installed sniffers can't reach. "With drones, it becomes so much easier," the director of marketing told the site.
The system tracks users by logging MAC address IDs when a phone checks for open Wi-Fi networks. This kind of consumer tracking is common for many marketers, although Apple has pushed back by encrypting the IDs in iOS 8. There's also no indication that Adnear intends its drone project as a permanent endeavor rather than a press stunt. Still, the prospect of Wi-Fi sniffing drones in public locations is enough to give anyone pause, specifically given many drones' new auto-follow capacity and the legal ambiguity around flying them in urban areas.