Call for privacy zones for shoppers to avoid tracking

ibeaconWith fears growing over the use of data-driven location tracking systems in shops, retailers are being urged to set up instore “privacy zones” where customers can escape from the rampant rise of mobile device monitoring.
iBeacon technology has gone from a Minority Report fantasy to the mainstream. One study of UK marketers, commissioned by Airspace, found that almost all respondents have already made investments in proximity marketing, through iBeacon-style technology, with 79% of those planning to implement campaigns within the next six months.
The likes of Tesco, Hamleys, Hackett and Odeon have already embraced Bluetooth-enabled iBeacons, while there has also been a rise in retailers using wi-fi and other mobile communication tools.
But the International Working Group on Data Protection in Telecommunications, chaired by the Berlin Commissioner for Data Protection & Freedom of Information Dr Alexander Dix, fears things could get out of control.
The group states: “[Retailers must ensure] data collection only takes place in areas which are relevant to the specified purpose [which] should reduce the risk of privacy intrusion. Organisations should also seek to identify ‘privacy zones’ where no tracking can take place as a result of technical or physical measures.”
The group also calls for the establishment of a standard symbol, similar to that used for CCTV signage, so customers know they are being tracked.
“Organisations must ensure that there is sufficient information, including a range of physical and digital signage, to clearly inform individuals that location technology is in operation,” its working paper said. “The information must clearly state the purpose for collection and identify the organisation responsible.”
Last week, the Information Commissioner’s Office issued guidance on the new technology, which also included the need for clear physical and digital signs to inform individuals that location tracking is in operation, but stopped short of demanding a standard symbol.
The working group’s paper said retailers should not “seek to collect and monitor outside their premises” and can avoid doing so “through careful placement of receivers, limiting data collection through a sampling method and to specified time periods or times of day”.

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