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Top 5 ‘Local’ Stats of the Week: Understanding Beacons

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Beacons are sometimes misunderstood as instruments of “surveillance,” capable of tracking smartphone owners’ movements without their awareness. This is incorrect.  Because of misconceptions like this, we partnered with the Future of Privacy Forum to release a simple and concise primer that explains how the Bluetooth devices work and how privacy friendly controls ensure user control.

Understanding Beacons: A Guide to Beacon Technologies,” is intended to answer basic questions about how Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) beacons work, as well as their capabilities and limitations. The technology behind these devices is also referred to as “Bluetooth Smart” or “Bluetooth 4.0.”

Here are five of the key takeaways from the report:

  • Beacons transmit a low-power signal that can be picked up by nearby Bluetooth-enabled mobile devices, including smartphones;
  • Beacons broadcast short-range signals that can be detected by apps on mobile devices in close proximity to a beacon;
  • While many beacon providers exist in the market, some include: Gimbal, Radius Networks, Estimote, Signal 360, GPShopper and Aruba;
  • There are multiple controls device owners currently have over beacons. On the iPhone, for example, they can disable location services for specific apps;
  • Beacons themselves don’t collect data.

Be sure to check back next Friday for our next edition of Top 5 ‘Local’ Stats of the Week. Have a great weekend!

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