Is mobile privacy an issue for you while shopping at your local retailer?

Posted on November 29, 2011

That sounds like a loaded question doesn’t it.  By hearing that question out of context, one would most likely answer yes.  Now let me bring it into context.  A recent CNN article reported two malls in the US are axing programs that would track and survey shoppers in their venues through their mobile phones.  The creators of the technology iterate that personal data like name or phone number aren’t captured.  What are tracked though are movements which could be used to analyze shopping patterns and any other qualitative information such as survey answers which can also be collected.

Now assuming your data is anonymized, would you still be ok with a retailer tracking and communicating with you?  What if through these mobile means, you would be able to receive in-store coupons or incentives?  What if the opt-in/opt-out process were more obvious?  If the privacy concerns are eased, wouldn’t these incentives add value to the customer shopping experience?

The proprietors of this mobile technology, Path Intelligence, compare it to online retail tracking.  Online retailers are able to track customer habits, purchases and the overall user experience while still protecting the privacy of their consumers.  By this rationale, it seems to make sense.  Although I do believe people still need the perception of choice.  By allowing an opt-out mechanism, this at least gives a shopper the ability to not participate in this engagement.

The mobile touchpoint and content streaming through it is not just a headache for wireless operators but for the downstream players such as retailers who choose to leverage the power of wireless connectivity and growing mobile device usage.  Free wireless for all I say but it’s situations like this that make one cautious and think about the rules and structure around the idea.

Read the CNN article here: