ICO warns retailers over rise of consumer tracking

shoppersThe rise of shopper tracking technology may be proving a boon for retailers but the sector is facing greater scrutiny over fears that some techniques could fall foul of data protection laws.
In a blog post, the Information Commissioner’s Office group manager for technology Simon Rice confirms the issue is firmly on the regulator’s agenda, and was raised at a recent international working group on data protection.
The technology, which is starting to be rolled out in shops, allows retailers to use the customer journey to build up a picture as to how people typically use the store.
It uses the MAC address of a smartphone which can, in many cases, be linked to a specific individual and then used for targeted marketing purposes. Meanwhile smart CCTV systems could offer new options for audience measurement and detection of over-crowding.
But Rice warns that the technology must be used in a privacy-friendly manner as individuals have the right to know who is collecting what data about them and for what purposes.
The ICO has published new guidelines to ensure there are clear physical and digital signs to inform individuals that location tracking is in operation and showing them how to transform the unique MAC address so that it no longer relates to the individual device from which it was collected.
Rice added: “Even if the identification of individuals is not the intended purpose, the implications of intelligent video analytics for privacy, data protection, and other human rights are still significant. We need to ensure the correct balance between technology and privacy.”

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