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Does your smartphone spy on you?

In this Aug. 15, 2013 photo, Nokia's Lumia 925 phone is shown at the flagship store of Finnish mobile phone manufacturer Nokia in Helsinki, Finland. Microsoft Corp. is buying Nokia Corp.'s devices and services business, and getting access to the company's patents, for a total of 5.44 billion euros ($7.2 billion) in an effort to expand its share of the smartphone market, the companies announced late Monday, Sept. 2, 2013. (AP Photo/Lehtikuva, Mikko Stig) FINLAND OUT

In this Aug. 15, 2013 photo, Nokia's Lumia 925 phone is shown at the flagship store of Finnish mobile phone manufacturer Nokia in Helsinki, Finland. Microsoft Corp. is buying Nokia Corp.'s devices and services business, and getting access to the company's patents, for a total of 5.44 billion euros ($7.2 billion) in an effort to expand its share of the smartphone market, the companies announced late Monday, Sept. 2, 2013. (AP Photo/Lehtikuva, Mikko Stig) FINLAND OUT

WASHINGTON (AP) - When you shop, does your smartphone spy on you? And if it does, should you care?

A growing numbers of retailers are using mobile-based technology to keep tabs on shoppers when they make their way through some malls and stores.

The key to the tracking is the phone's MAC address - and this Mac has nothing to do with an Apple computer. It's a 12-character set of letters and numbers that acts like a vehicle identification number for your mobile device. It isn't linked to personal information - but it does single out your particular phone or tablet.

Retailers can use the number to see where in a store you might spend the most time - or what stores in a mall you're visiting.

Stores and malls say you shouldn't worry your privacy is being invaded.

But consumer advocates say shoppers should be told their phones are being observed - even if the retailers say shoppers themselves aren't - and that customers should be able to opt out of such surveillance.


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