Philz Coffee recently put this sign up at its 13 cafes in Northern California, and it totes freaked out a bunch of customers. “You mean you’re trying to data mine my coffee order?”, they asked. “I just want to buy some Tantalizing Turkish in peace.” We feel you, theoretical Philz customer. We Built This City had the story first:

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WHOA! If you walk into @PhilzCoffee on 24th, did you know that you are being secretly tracked? This is EXTREMELY CREEPY. You can’t even truly opt out unless you know your device’s MAC address — or even know what that is or how to find out. I love Philz, and am really disappointed that they feel the need to do this.

But then, this being San Francisco and all, some tech nerd pushed back and dropped techie knowledge bombs on the general Philz-going public. Turns out this brand of retail data mining is no more pernicious than, say, doing anything ever anywhere on the internet:

Maybe it’s because I’m working on something that also uses LBS, or have been thinking about these things for nearly a decade, but I’m miffed that the recent media around these retail wifi tracking systems has caused a lot of panic from an uneducated public. And then I wonder if people realize how much we know about them when they come to our websites, and that this is actually less invasive and way more anonymous than visiting almost any site while logged into Facebook or Twitter. I suspect people don’t know, and that’s why there’s never been pushback, and at this point it’s not sexy enough to be a media scandal.

And then I wonder if I’m just totally desensitized and contributing to a problem I might regret later. For some reason the pop culture reference I choose is from Caprica, when Daniel Graystone puts Zoe’s consciousness into the prototype cylon to keep her alive. Because it’s that sort of complicated.

At least Philz is being up front about their practices, placing signage and the like. Most of the people complaining about this stuff are probably logged into Facebook and Gmail simultaneously, bumping “Magna Carta Holy Grail” in their Beats By Dre and getting followed around the web by ads for Frank and Oak.

As a side note, why you gotta ruin major Battle Star Gallactica plot points like that, Prophecy Boy?


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