Creative or invasive? A controversial new technology allows retailers to gather information about customers through their smartphones as they shop. The technology taps into shoppers’ wifi signals, and can detect a shopper’s location in the store, how long they spend in certain departments, and how often they visit the store.
It’s a deal for marketers looking to collect information, but it’s a deal-breaker for privacy advocates.
“It’s just one layer of privacy after another being peeled off,” said Mark Bonner, associate professor of law at Ave Maria School of Law. “The potential for abuse is gigantic.”
Nordstrom and Home Depot have admitted to using the technology in the past, and a spokesperson for Family Dollar said the store is currently testing it out. Retailers install a tracking system that picks up your wifi signal as you move around the store. An outside company– like Euclid Analytics– collects the data and analyzes it.
“It’s a dedicated device that actually tracks smartphones as they move through the store,” said technology expert David Seitz, CFO at Greenwire IT. “It’s only tied to a hardware ID on your phone, so it’s not like they’re pooling your name… it’s really just ‘this piece of hardware moved through at this time and did these sorts of things.’”
The technology allows a retailer to find out how long you shop, how often you visit the store, what displays you look at, and whether or not you walked by the store without going in.
“This is old school behavioral tracking done in a new environment,” said Chris Spiro, CEO of Spiro & Associates Marketing, Advertising and Public Relations. “That [consumer] profile is valuable… if I have to spend less money to convince you to buy my product, I can then have more money to convince more people to buy my product.”
Some privacy experts argue customers deserve to know when they’re being tracked, and deserve an option to decline participation.
“It treats people more like human beings rather than like commodities,” Bonner said.
Legally, however, stores don’t have to inform customers. Tracking or monitoring becomes an invasion of privacy only when it happens in a location where you expect privacy, according to attorney Andrew Epstein.
“Your home, in a hotel room, in a bathroom… those are the places where you can pretty much automatically expect your privacy to be protected,” Epstein said.
Shopper Genesis Alvarado said she doesn’t mind being tracked if it helps stores identify products she’s interested in.
“I must be a pretty amazing customer for them to want to track me,” she said.
Other shoppers said the technology feels invasive.
“It’s weird… I just feel like, why do they need to know exactly where you’re at?” said shopper Jordain Ray.
If you don’t want to be tracked while you shop, you can turn off the wifi signal on your smart phone, or simply leave it at home.
daily alternative | alternative news – Stores use your phone’s wifi signal to track you as you shop
Microsoft Admits Windows 10 Automatic Spying Cannot Be Stopped
Last week changes to the Windows 10 upgrade path mean it is going to become increasingly difficult for any non-techy users to avoid being pushed to Microsoft MSFT +0.00%’s new operating system. But given Windows 10 is better than Windows 7 and Windows 8, why would that be a problem? Because of policies like this…
Speaking to PC World, Microsoft Corporate Vice President Joe Belfiore explained that Windows 10 is constantly tracking how it operates and how you are using it and sending that information back to Microsoft by default. More importantly he also confirmed that, despite offering some options to turn elements of tracking off, core data collection simply cannot be stopped:
“In the cases where we’ve not provided options, we feel that those things have to do with the health of the system,” he said. “In the case of knowing that our system that we’ve created is crashing, or is having serious performance problems, we view that as so helpful to the ecosystem and so not an issue of personal privacy, that today we collect that data so that we make that experience better for everyone.”
This backs up detailed data that some had chosen to dismiss as conspiracy theories.
Windows 10 has great potential, but aggressive update and user tracking policies. Image credit: Microsoft
Still, whether or not you agree with Belfiore’s standpoint that this doesn’t invade user privacy, it does seem strange that it has taken Microsoft so long to come clean and admit core Windows 10 background data collection processes cannot be stopped. Instead it gave the impression that turning off all user accessible spying options in Windows 10 settings would provide owners with full privacy – that’s tantamount to spying.
To his credit, Belfiore does recognise the controversial nature of this decision and stresses that:
“We’re going to continue to listen to what the broad public says about these decisions, and ultimately our goal is to balance the right thing happening for the most people – really, for everyone – with complexity that comes with putting in a whole lot of control.”
Interestingly Belfiore himself won’t be around to oversee this as he is about to take a year long sabbatical. When he comes back, however, I suspect this issue will still be raging as Windows and Devices Group head Terry Myerson recently confirmed Windows 10 Enterprise users will be able to disable every single aspect of Microsoft data collection.
This comes in combination with Windows 10 Pro and Enterprise users’ ability to permanently disable automatic updates which are forced upon consumers and shows the growing divide between how Microsoft is treating consumers versus corporations.
So how concerned should users be about Windows 10’s default data collection policies? I would say very.
By default Windows 10 Home is allowed to control your bandwidth usage, install any software it wants whenever it wants (without providing detailed information on what these updates do), display ads in the Start Menu (currently it has been limited to app advertisements), send your hardware details and any changes you make to Microsoft and even log your browser history and keystrokes which the Windows End User Licence Agreement (EULA) states you allow Microsoft to use for analysis.
The good news: even if Belfiore states you cannot switch off everything, editing your privacy settings will disable the worst of these. To find them open the Start menu > Settings > Privacy.
daily alternative | alternative news – Microsoft Admits Windows 10 Automatic Spying Cannot Be Stopped
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