Patients waiting for their turn in urgent care facilities and emergency rooms will be targeted with ads sponsored by law firms in Philadelphia. Injury attorneys from the city of brotherly love have found a way to deploy geofencing and geotracking marketing campaigns aimed at patients visiting hospitals, pain clinics, and chiropractor offices. Once people with mobile devices have entered the facilities, they would be automatically included in law firm’s marketing target lists and have all their smart devices bombarded with ads sponsored by personal injury attorneys for up to a month. Surprisingly, such practices appear not to violate the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, a medical privacy law known as HIPAA.

Such methods have been used by retailers over the last few years but this is now entering hospitals, and some people might say that this might be an intrusion of people’s private health and medical status. This might not be a Philadelphia thing, personal injury specialists from California and Tennessee are also known to currently explore such marketing practices.

What is geofencing?

Through geofencing techniques marketers are now able to identify mobile device IDs that have been within a tight location radius. Digital marketing specialists are now able to draw a polygon around a location and retarget these users with ads anywhere they are now. They can also create a household extension by matching those IDs with other devices that it lives with. Then they can pull lookback reports up to one year for all of the smart devices in a given address, or across multiple locations.

This form of targeting has been gaining speed over the last few years. It’s proven to be a useful targeting option to capture an interest-based audience and provide a way to competitor conquest. For example, if you are working with a fast-food brand that competes with Burger King, marketers can capture device IDs of any person that has visited the fast-food chain within a specific location, and during a particular time frame, and they can serve that group the ads for your restaurant. Geofencing can also include foot-traffic data if brick-and-mortar locations are relevant.

How to avoid being targeted?

The stories surrounding the ethical issues that accompany cellphone tracking marketing are just about to surface. Injury lawyers might not be the only ones crossing the line. Pharmaceutical companies might be targeting vulnerable people who are visiting hospitals; religious organizations might be targeting places of worship to try to convert them; employers might know the whereabouts of their employees, and companies with questionable moral practices might be praying on students and the elderly by geofencing schools and retirement homes. Funeral homes might suddenly start targeting hospitals with high mortality rates. Sadly, preying on the weak is possible as currently there are not enough regulations concerning geofencing and geotracking practices.

How geofencing works

But before you know how to avoid being targeted, you have to understand how geofencing works – your cellphone shares its location every time you open an app or a web browser. These practices give up your position. Both smartphones and PC/Macs can be geofenced and geotracked. Currently, the most popular solution for avoiding being targeted with ads is if you use quality VPN. Using such service allows you to hide your location, so no one knows where your mobile device is at any given moment.

Bear in mind that even though achieving full online privacy is almost impossible, there are user-friendly tools that allow you to stay away from the herd. You can use them until governments find a way to regulate such practices. However, be patient as building a cyber-fence around places known to be visited by vulnerable people is not an easy task.

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