Schumer Reveals: Stores are Tracking Shoppers' Movements Through Their Cell Phones With Rapidly Increasing Frequency, and Testing Ever More Invasive Technologies; Calls for FTC to Require Mandatory 'Opt-Out' Opportunity
To combat this invasion of privacy, today Schumer asked the
"Cell phone tracking is intrusive and unsettling - it's as if you are being followed around while shopping at the mall, with someone looking over your shoulder at every product you're considering," said Schumer. "If you're shopping, you expect to be the one doing the reviewing, but stores are flipping that on its head, and treating the consumers as the products. If stores are going to track you footstep by footstep, you should be alerted in no uncertain terms, and be given the opportunity to decline. Personal cell phones are just that - personal. They shouldn't be used as some
According to published reporters, retailers like United Colors of
Retailers can then combine the data they've collected with data found online, creating an incredibly detailed profile of each shopper. Schumer pointed out that consumers have no say over how that data is used, who it's sold to, where it's stored, or how it's secured.
Retailers purchase this tracking technology from third-party technology companies like
Schumer has highlighted concerns about cell phone tracking in the past. In 2011, two U.S. malls halted their experimentation with the technology after Schumer raised privacy concerns.
Schumer today urged the FTC to allow shoppers to opt-out of this cell phone tracking program. Schumer explained that this is a deceptive trade practice because shoppers are unaware that their movements are being tracked and urged the FTC to make retailers notify shoppers if they use this technology. Schumer suggested that the FTC consider requiring retailers to send text messages or other electronic messages to the phones they are about to start tracking, and give the owners an opportunity to opt-out of the tracking.
A copy of Schumer's letter can be found below:
Dear Chairwoman Ramirez,
Over the past several months retailers around the country have increasingly been exploring technologies that use a shopper's unique cell phone ID to follow their movements throughout shopping centers and individual stores. The technology allows shoppers to be tracked throughout a store, allowing a retailer to acquire information about shoppers without their permission. Retailers do not ever receive affirmative consent from the consumer for this type of tracking, and the only options for a consumer to not be tracked are to turn off their phone's Wi-Fi, or to leave the phone at home.
Geophysical location data about a person is obviously highly sensitive; however, retailers are collecting this information anonymously without consent. I would ask that the
I look forward to hearing from you on this important issue.
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