Philz has long been a neighborhood favorite thanks to its welcoming atmosphere and no bullshit staff. But despite its neighborhoody feel, the burgeoning coffee chain founded on 24th and Folsom has been seeing itself as a start-up in recent years, raising buckets of venture capital (valuing the company between $40 and $70 million) and partnering with Facebook to test a “check-in for wifi” scheme. Now, according to the SF Appeal, Philz has graduated to spying on customers and passersby:
Beginning in 2012 the coffee company partnered with retail analytic firm Euclid, installing devices in their stores that detect the “pings” Wi-Fi enabled devices send out while searching for networks to connect to. The “pings” include what’s called a device’s Media Access Control (MAC) address (which is kind of like a unique device serial number) that’s used by Euclid in aggregate to provide business intelligence, in order to, they say, to improve operations.
It’s not just a business’s customers that are tracked, however: Euclid’s technology also scans devices of those passing by.
Philz’ CEO told the Appeal that the tracking tech is “a useful way for us to help deliver a better customer experience” and they’re “particularly interested in is dwell time [so] we can restructure the furniture in various locations to accommodate commuters or customers who camp out.” However, a spokesperson for the Electronic Frontier Foundation points out that there are “legal concerns” with location eavesdropping on US citizens.
UPDATE: Philz backed down and will disabled the tracking system, according to ABC 7.