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Schumer: Deal To Protect ‘Consumer Privacy’ Lets Shoppers Opt Out Of Wireless Tracking

Eight Of 10 Leading Location Analytics Firms Have Agreed To New Guidelines
Sen. Charles Schumer announces deal to let customers opt out of location tracking via smartphones in retail stores, Oct. 22, 2013. (credit: Alex Silverman/WCBS 880)

Sen. Charles Schumer announces deal to let customers opt out of location tracking via smartphones in retail stores, Oct. 22, 2013. (credit: Alex Silverman/WCBS 880)

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) – A new type of in-store marketing using the signal from your smartphone will now come with a warning, Sen. Charles Schumer announced Tuesday.

Eight companies have agreed to measures that will let shoppers nationwide know when retailers are using their smartphones to track their movements through a store, the Democrat said.

Schumer criticized the “intrusive and unsettling” trade practice in July.

As WCBS 880’s Alex Silverman reported, Schumer said stores are starting to use technology that follows your phone’s wireless signal “to track the products you’ve looked at in the aisles and how long you’re looking at those products.”

The senator told The Associated Press on Tuesday that eight of the 10 leading location analytics companies have agreed to a new code of conduct. It includes signs posted in stores to alert shoppers that tracking is being done and instructions on how to opt out.

“This is a major step forward in the quest for consumer privacy,” Schumer said. “When you go into your store for your Christmas shopping, there’ll be a sign out there that says that you’re being tracked and if you don’t want to be, you can very simply opt out.”

The opt-out will be active in a few months, 1010 WINS’ Carol D’Auria reported.

Many major retailers use technology that allows them to trace activity in their stores by following Wi-Fi signals from phones. The Future of Privacy Forum, a Washington-based think tank, joined Schumer in raising the issue.

The technology companies are Euclid, iInside, Mexia Interactive, Nomi, SOLOMO, Radius Networks, Brickstream and Turnstyle Solutions.

Shoppers also can also turn off their phones’ wireless connections or leave their phones at home to avoid tracking.

“Today, location analytics companies have introduced a comprehensive code to ensure they have data protection standards in place to de-identify data, to provide consumers with effective choices to not be tracked and to explain to consumers the purposes for which data is being used,” said Jules Polonetsky, the forum’s executive director.

According to the code of conduct, the companies must get consent from a consumer if they will be contacted later based on their tracking information. The data won’t be used adversely for determining eligibility for employment, credit, health care treatment or insurance. And the companies agree to contractually require third-party data users also follow the code.

Your name is not associated with the data the same way the TSA can track how long you wait in line at the airport, Silverman reported.

The technology for tracking shoppers was developed by Portsmouth, England-based Path Intelligence.

It uses antennas to capture the identification number assigned to each phone and track its movement throughout the stores. The technology can yield data such as how many Victoria’s Secret shoppers also stop at Starbucks.

In 2011, when Schumer first took issue with the technology, Path Intelligence said the it was not intended to spy on individual shoppers.

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