The Big Issues for the Retail Industry and Mobile Device Tracking

Mobile device tracking is a big deal in the retail world, a very big deal. So big that it can transform the retail industry. Which is why last week I attended the FTC’s Mobile Device Tracking Seminar to learn more.

Here’s the big picture:

More and more retailers are using sophisticated technologies like Bluetooth, iBeacons and RFID to track customers on their mobile devices—usually their phones. When customers walk into a store, retailers are tracking them, collecting high-level information about the device such as where it’s located and its route through the store. They crunch that data to learn how to lower their store costs and increase sales. It’s too early in the game to see any metrics, but I’m excited for them to come out.

The benefits are supposed to run both ways. Customers can now have a more relevant shopping experience. For example, a store might recognize my phone and match it against my prior in-store or online purchases to anticipate that I might like a certain cookbook.

Another benefit is that shopping could become more enjoyable for those of us who hate waiting in checkout lines. Soon we will be able to bypass lines altogether by purchasing directly from our mobile devices. That would make me happy.

All these benefits sound great. But as a privacy guy, I am naturally concerned. Are customers fully aware of the data collection happening when they walk in a store? And even if they are, do they know what’s being collected? My first privacy concern is the transparency issue at play.

My second concern is about consent. Right now only real-time location data is collected. Nothing sensitive. That means the opt-out consent model we presently have is sufficient. But I’m a worrier, and I’m worried about data creep. What happens if someone sweeps up sensitive data like my photos, or personal contacts? It’s not right, at least not without my prior explicit consent, and that would require opt-in.

There’s a lot of innovation happening right now in retail, and, in my book, that’s a good thing. While I welcome this innovation, safeguards need to be put in place to ensure that the benefits clearly outweigh the privacy concerns. This isn’t hyperbole. The industry took a good first step at imposing safeguards by adopting the Mobile Location Analytics Code of Conduct, which calls for retailers to be transparent and give the customers control, but I wish it was more meaningful. I can’t help feel like it was a wasted opportunity to get it right.

I see three problems with the code.

Although transparency is the code’s first principle, it’s not clear how companies actually can be transparent. Another sign at the entrance? An announcement over the PA? Retailers don’t want more signs in their stores, and customers don’t read them anyway. The most effective method would be to provide notice when someone downloads the retailer’s app. You could also give them the opportunity to opt-out at the point of download. This limits the tracking to a small pool of mobile devices, but it’s a start. It also would encourage better marketing of the app.

The second problem with the code is the control mechanism. Soon there will be a website where a customer can go and enter their unique 12-digit MAC address to opt out. I’m a big fan of user control, but it has to be meaningful. That’s way too much effort. This isn’t even close.

The third problem is the code lacks any enforcement. It is purely voluntary and has no consequences for noncompliance. This code needs an accountability principle that has a third party actively enforcing it.

Evidon has long been in the vanguard helping companies be transparent with their customers as new opportunities for Big Data intelligence emerge. Drop me a line at truback@evidon.com and let’s talk. We’re pretty good at innovation, too.

Written By

Todd Ruback, CIPP/E, CIPP/US, CIPT


If you want to comment on this post, you need to login.

  • Pharmf585 May 28, 2014

    Very nice site! <a href="http://apeyixo2.com/ysyaoys/1.html">cheap goods</a>
  • discount Jun 1, 2014

    <a href="http://www.cialisprofessionalcheap5b.com/">cialis discount coupon</a> , <a href="http://www.cialisprofessionalonline5b.com/">cialis discount coupon</a> , <a href="http://www.viagraprofessionala5gen.com/">viagra jokes</a> , <a href="http://www.cialisprofessionalpharm5b.com/">cialis discount coupon</a> , <a href="http://www.viagraprofessionalonline5a.com/">viagra jokes</a> , 
  • cheap Jun 2, 2014

    <a href="http://larryspoultry.com/">http://larryspoultry.com/</a> , <a href="http://malanjo.com/">http://malanjo.com/</a> , <a href="http://pcpfcu.org/">http://pcpfcu.org/</a> , <a href="http://pinehurstncrealtors.com/">http://pinehurstncrealtors.com/</a> , 
  • cialis Jun 11, 2014

    <a href="http://www.viagraforsalepharm6a.com/">viagra</a> , <a href="http://www.cialisforsalepharm6b.com/">cialis</a> , <a href="http://www.howdoesviagrapills6a.com/">viagra</a> , <a href="http://www.howdoescialisb6online.com/">cialis</a> , <a href="http://www.howdoescialismed6b.com/">cialis</a> , 


Board of Directors

See the esteemed group of leaders shaping the future of the IAPP.

Contact Us

Need someone to talk to? We’re here for you.

IAPP Staff

Looking for someone specific? Visit the staff directory.

Learn more about the IAPP»

Daily Dashboard

The day’s top stories from around the world

Privacy Perspectives

Where the real conversations in privacy happen

The Privacy Advisor

Original reporting and feature articles on the latest privacy developments

Privacy Tracker

Alerts and legal analysis of legislative trends

Privacy Tech

Exploring the technology of privacy

Canada Dashboard Digest

A roundup of the top Canadian privacy news

Europe Data Protection Digest

A roundup of the top European data protection news

Asia-Pacific Dashboard Digest

A roundup of the top privacy news from the Asia-Pacific region

Latin America Dashboard Digest

A roundup of the top privacy news from Latin America

IAPP Westin Research Center

Original works. Groundbreaking research. Emerging scholars.

Get more News »

IAPP Communities

Meet locally with other privacy pros, dive deep into a specialized topic or simply share a common interest, IAPP Communities are for you.

IAPP Job Board

Looking for a new challenge, or need to hire your next privacy pro? The IAPP Job Board is the answer.

Join the Privacy List

Have ideas? Need advice? Subscribe to the Privacy List. It’s crowdsourcing, with an exceptional crowd.

Find more ways to Connect »

Find a Privacy Training Class

Two-day privacy training classes are held around the world. See the complete schedule now.

NEW! Raise Staff Awareness

Equip all your data-handling staff to reduce privacy risk, with Privacy Core™ e-learning essentials.

Online Privacy Training

Build your knowledge. The privacy know-how you need is just a click away.

The Training Post—Can’t-Miss Training Updates

Subscribe now to get the latest alerts on training opportunities around the world.

Upcoming Web Conferences

See our list of upcoming web conferences. Just log on, listen in and learn!

Train Your Team

Get your team up to speed on privacy by bringing IAPP training to your organization.

Learn more »

CIPP Certification

The global standard for the go-to person for privacy laws, regulations and frameworks

CIPM Certification

The first and only privacy certification for professionals who manage day-to-day operations

CIPT Certification

The industry benchmark for IT professionals worldwide to validate their knowledge of privacy requirements

NEW! FIP Designation

Recognizing the advanced knowledge and issue-spotting skills a privacy pro must attain in today’s complex world of data privacy.

Certify Your Staff

Find out how you can bring the world’s only globally recognized privacy certification to a group in your organization.

Learn more about IAPP certification »

Get Schooled in Privacy

Looking to get some higher-ed in privacy? Check out these schools that include data privacy courses in their curricula.

Privacy Vendor List

Find a privacy vendor to meet your needs with our filterable list of global service providers.

NEW! Raise Staff Awareness

Equip all your data-handling staff to reduce privacy risk, with Privacy Core™ e-learning essentials.

The Industry of Privacy

Take stock, compare your practices to those of other organizations, and get budget with these studies on the industry of privacy.

More Resources »

Time to Get to Work at the Congress

Thought leadership, a thriving community and unrivaled education...the Congress prepares you for the challenges ahead. Register today.

GDPR Comprehensive London: Register Onsite for In-Person or Online for Virtual

Online registration for in-person attendance is now closed. For in-person, register onsite the day of. For virtual, register online throughout the programme.

Call for Speakers at Summit 2017

Are you an engaging speaker with privacy expertise to share? We want you! Submit a proposal today! The Call for Speakers closes Oct. 2, 2016.

GDPR's Top Impacts - Webcon Delivered in French

Rejoignez des experts pour en savoir plus : Les 10 conséquences pratiques les plus importantes du RGPD. S’inscrire maintenant.

Intensive Education at the Practical Privacy Series

The Series is returning to DC, this year spotlighting Data Breach, FTC and Consumer Privacy, GDPR and Government privacy issues. It’s the education you need now!

Sponsor an Event

Increase visibility for your organization—check out sponsorship opportunities today.

More Conferences »

Become a Member

Start taking advantage of the many IAPP member benefits today

Corporate Members

See our list of high-profile corporate members—and find out why you should become one, too

Renew Your Membership

Don’t miss out for a minute—continue accessing your benefits

Join the IAPP»