You lost your right to privacy years ago, get over it

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Recently a US Senator wrote to a tech firm which tracks and monitors consumers and asked them to change their practices.

Euclid Analytics uses technology and data to help retailers build a consumer relationship by turning in-store behavior into insights and recommendations for improving marketing, merchandising, and operations. They do this by using the way a smartphone hunts out a WiFi network signal. When it does this the smartphone includes the phone’s MAC address and other non-personal information which Euclid uses to determine the customer’s location.

But Senator Al Franken took objection to this and wrote a detailed letter to Euclid.

It’s one thing to track someone’s shopping habits through a loyalty card or credit card purchase; folks understand that their information may be collected, it’s another thing entirely to track consumers’ movements without their permission as they shop, especially when someone doesn’t buy anything or even enter a store. People have a fundamental right to privacy, and I think neglecting to ask consumers for their permission to track them violates that right.

Sadly I think Senator Franken and anyone else with a smartphone who uses it to ‘check-in’ a la Foursquare or registers their details with numerous retail outlets are barking up the wrong tree now. Whilst we perceive to believe we have a right to privacy and to not have our movements monitored and tracked the reality is very, very different.

On average we are caught on camera over 300 times a day. That’s just by surveillance camera. This number doesn’t include the amount of times we feature accidentally in someone’s cameraphone memories as they snap or record a video clip. Add to that scanning an app across a till to register a voucher, waving an NFC-enabled device, swiping a loyalty card, checking in via Foursquare and making a purchase via a cross-registered Amex Card and the reality is that we have all but waived our rights to privacy when we shop.

But here’s the issue. As consumers we expect everything in real-time. We expect offers and marketing to be tailored to our needs and whims and for retailers, app developers, card issuers etc all to understand our habits and present us with retail opportunities as we meander the shopping mall. There and then. But how can they be expected to do this when we have people crying over a few spilt WiFi data packages ?

Privacy? What Privacy!

Analytics requires data. You’re giving it away all the time whether you realise it or not. That’s the reality of today. If you think you still have rights over privacy when you go shopping then stay at home. In fact, turn off the computer, unplug the internet and wear some tin foil.

You lost the right to privacy years ago. Get over it.

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