Stores can track where you go, using your phone

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Federal Trade Commission (FTC) chief technologist Latanya Sweeney, left, points to cell phone information displayed as she conducts a mobile tracking demonstration, Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014, in Washington. You might want to keep your cellphone home _ or at least turn it off _ when you go shopping. Stores are using technology to track consumers’ movements, but they say the information is anonymous. The Federal Trade Commission takes a look at the information these companies are collecting, how long they are keeping it and what it’s being used for. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Should shoppers turn off their smartphones when they hit the mall, or does leaving them on lead to better sales or shorter lines at the cash register?

Retailers are using mobile-based technology to track shoppers' movements at some malls and stores. The companies collecting the information say it's anonymous, can't be traced to a specific person and no one should worry that their privacy is being invaded. But consumer advocates aren't convinced. It's spying, they say, and shoppers should be able to choose whether to allow that.

The Federal Trade Commission held a workshop Wednesday on the issue. The FTC says it wants to better understand how companies are using phone-location technology, how robust privacy controls are and whether shoppers are notified in advance.