The issue pf privacy is becoming more crucial by the day as the mainstream public realizes the extent of which they are monitored. Now we have a new instance to add to the list. A report released today by The New York Times shows that brick and mortar stores have been tracking you through your smartphone in order to ascertain shopper habits.
A local CBS branch in Fort Worth, Texas was the first to report on the story, two months ago. The Facebook link got a number of comments from outraged consumers who had no idea such a practice was becoming more common. There didn’t seem to be any real attempt to let customers know, the easy to miss signs the only “warning” provided when entering the store.
Companies like Nordstrom, Cabela, Family Dollar and others within the US and UK have so far admitted to using this technology. But you can be assured that there are going to be dozens more out there who haven’t come forward, and so far only Nordstrom has said they ended the surveillance after customers who did see the sign complained.
How does the technology work?
The concept is pretty simple. They use a program that taps into the GPS or WiFi of your smartphone. Then it tracks you around the store, gathering details like your gender from the phone itself, and what departments you spend the most time in using your signal.
If you aren’t certain of how creepy that is, I want you to consider a couple of things. First, what your WiFi and GPS say about you: where you have been on the web, what webpages you look at, and even where you physically spend your time. Your home, your work, your friends and family’s houses…all of this is in there.
While there is no proof that shows they have accessed that much information – and probably have not – do you want them having the possibility? Just the concept of them stalking you digitally around the store and grabbing little tidbits is weird enough.
Maybe this wouldn’t be so bad if customers gave express permission to be tracked. But their not; it implies consent, and there is so little regulation. It could be argued that it is no different than tracking cookies and former purchases within a profile on a site like Amazon. But it is different…this is a physical store, and they are accessing your personal device and information as you walk through the aisles.
What do you think of brick and mortar stores using this technology?