What’s this “mall tracking” I’ve been hearing about?

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Consumers may not know it, but there are technologies out there that let retailers and others track their movements within and around stores and other attractions through their mobile devices.  Businesses can use the information to identify trends in consumer behavior, plan sales and promotions, and more efficiently staff their stores and structure check-out (although no matter how sophisticated the technology, we always manage to choose the slow-moving line).

But some people have raised concerns about the extent to which this goes on without consumers’ knowledge.  Others have questions about how the technology might be used in the future.  That’s why the FTC is kicking off its Spring Privacy Series on February 19, 2014, with a seminar on Mobile Device Tracking.  We’re bringing together technology companies, retailers, consumer advocates, and researchers to talk over topics like:

  • What kinds of mobile device tracking are companies using now?  How do they work?  How might they be used in the future?
  • Mobile device tracking vs. online tracking:  Compare and contrast.
  • What kinds of information are retailers getting from mobile device tracking?  How are they using it?
  • What are the privacy and security risks?  How anonymous is this kind of tracking?  What choices do consumers have?
  • How can companies that want to design or use technologies like this implement the principles of privacy by design, simplified consumer choice, and increased transparency?

The seminar is set for 10:00 to noon Eastern Time at the FTC’s Conference Center, 601 New Jersey Avenue, N.W., in Washington, DC.  If you can’t attend in person, watch the webcast.  We’ll post a link on the event webpage that morning.

But wait!  There’s more.  (We’ve always wanted to say that.)  The Mobile Device Tracking seminar is just one of a series of events the FTC is hosting this spring to explore the consumer privacy implications of emerging technologies.  Mark your calendar to discuss Alternative Scoring Products on March 19th and Consumer Generated and Controlled Health Data on May 7th.


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