Senator Schumer just got himself a lot of positive press by telling malls not to track shoppers’ cellphones without express opt-in consent.
The technology, Footpath, by U.K. firm Path Intelligence, has been used in both the U.K. and Australia over the past few years, and was scheduled to debut here this holiday weekend. Plans were canceled, however, after an outpouring of complaints resulted in the Senator getting involved.
Somewhat outrageously, Path Intelligence refused to take his suggestion about getting explicit opt-in consent. Associated Press reports that their CEO Sharon Biggar
said that requiring an opt-in for her company’s service would put real-world stores at a disadvantage as they compete with online retailers that track shoppers’ behavior from the moment they enter a website.
“We are simply seeking to create a level playing field for offline retailers, and believe you can do so whilst simultaneously protecting the privacy of shoppers,” she said, noting that her company alters the information it collects before it is stored.
“We never reveal data at an individual level, and we ask all of our clients to put up signage to let shoppers know that our system is in operation,” Biggar said.
In other words, if online sites get away with tracking you, brick and mortar stores should be able to track you, too.
I think the solution is obvious, although those who balk at government regulation will not like the solution: Congress needs to stop this cold. Online and offline. How many times do they need to have proof shoved up their noses that businesses will not truly respect consumer privacy unless there is a regulatory prohibition with enforcement?