Store cameras record every move you make, every interest you take. Tracking outstrips protections

By | May 4, 2010

Cameras that can follow you from the minute you enter a store to the moment you hit the checkout counter, recording every T-shirt you touch, every mannequin you ogle, every time you blow your nose or stop to tie your shoelaces.

Web coupons embedded with bar codes that can identify, and alert retailers to, the search terms you used to find them and, in some cases, even your Facebook information and your name.

Mobile marketers that can find you near a store clothing rack, and send ads to your cellphone based on your past preferences and behavior.

To be sure, such retail innovations help companies identify their most profitable client segments, better predict the deals shoppers will pursue, fine-tune customer service down to a person and foster brand loyalty. (My colleagues Stephanie Rosenbloom and Stephanie Clifford have written in detail about the tracking prowess of store cameras and Web coupons.)

But these and other surveillance techniques are also reminders that advances in data collection are far outpacing personal data protection.

Enter the post-privacy society, where we have lost track of how many entities are tracking us. Not to mention what they are doing with our personal information, how they are storing it, whom they might be selling our dossiers to and, yes, how much money they are making from them.

On the way out, consumer advocates say, is that quaint old notion of informed consent, in which a company clearly notifies you of its policies and gives you the choice of whether to opt in (rather than having you opt out once you discover your behavior is being tracked).

“How does notice and choice work when you don’t even interface with the company that has your data?” says Jessica Rich, a deputy director of the bureau of consumer protection at the Federal Trade Commission.

via Slipstream – Consumer Tracking Outstrips Protections – NYTimes.com.

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