On February 19, 2014, the Federal Trade Commission staff hosted a seminar on Mobile Device Tracking.
The speakers discussed how retailers and other businesses have been tracking consumers’ movements throughout and around retail stores and other attractions using technologies that identify signals emitted by their mobile devices. While the technologies differ, many work by identifying and collecting the MAC address – which is unique to a particular device – broadcast when a mobile device searches for Wi-Fi networks. Companies can use these technologies to reveal information about consumers including the path taken throughout a location, length of time in one location, whether a visitor is new or returning, and the frequency of visits to a location. According to media reports, major retailers in the United States are using or have tested the technology in their stores in order to gain insights into the behavior of their customers.
In most cases, this tracking is invisible to consumers and occurs with no consumer interaction. As a result, the use of these technologies raises a number of potential privacy concerns and questions.
You can view an archived webcast of the event. A transcript of the proceedings is also available below.
- Amanda Koulousias (202) 326-3334
- Kristen Anderson (202) 326-3209
9 am – 10 am
From 9:30 a.m. - 9:55 a.m., as well as immediately following the workshop, FTC Chief Technologist Latanya Sweeney will provide a mobile location tracking demonstration.
10 am – 10:05 am
10:05 am – 10:25 am
Ashkan Soltani, Independent Researcher and Consultant
10:25 am - 12 pm
- Amanda Koulousias & Kristen Anderson, Attorneys
Division of Privacy and Identity Protection, FTC
- Mallory Duncan, Senior Vice President and General Counsel, National Retail Federation
- James Riesenbach, Chief Executive Officer, iInside
- Seth Schoen, Senior Staff Technologist, Electronic Frontier Foundation
- Glenn Tinley, President and Founder, Mexia Interactive
- Ilana Westerman, Chief Executive Officer, Create with Context
- Amanda Koulousias & Kristen Anderson, Attorneys
Mallory Duncan has served as senior vice president and general counsel for the National Retail Federation for more than fifteen years. He is responsible for coordinating strategic legislative and regulatory initiatives involving customer data privacy, financial services and consumer protection.
James Riesenbach has built and led wide-ranging digital media, marketing, and analytics businesses for over 25 years. He has been CEO at iInside since January 2013, after previously serving as strategic advisor to the firm.
Seth Schoen is a senior staff technologist at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, where he has worked since 2001 promoting understanding of the implications of technology for individual rights.
Ashkan Soltani is an independent researcher and consultant focused on privacy, security, and behavioral economics. He has previously served as staff technologist in the Division of Privacy and Identity Protection at the Federal Trade Commission and also worked as the primary technical consultant on the Wall Street Journal’s “What They Know” investigative series.
Glenn Tinley founded Mexia with the focused vision to help companies understand how the changing dynamics of an increasingly online world impact consumer behaviors at brick and mortar locations and how consumer experiences can be improved by understanding these behaviors.
Ilana Westerman is the CEO and co-founder of Create with Context, Inc., a digital innovation firm focused on strategic research and design. Ms. Westerman is responsible for corporate development, as well as hands-on client work, including research, innovation, and design.
Transcript - Files
Request for Comments
The Commission invites interested persons to submit written comments on issues related to this workshop. The deadline for comment submissions is March 19, 2014. Interested parties may want to address the following questions in their comments:
- What different types of mobile device tracking are companies currently implementing, how do they work, and where are they used?
- What are potential future uses of these technologies?
- What are the similarities or differences between mobile device tracking and online tracking technologies?
- What types of information and benefits do retailers gain from these technologies?
- What benefits do consumers derive from these technologies?
- What are the privacy and security risks associated with these technologies?
- How are companies addressing these risks?
- What information and choices are provided to consumers about this type of tracking?
- How anonymous is the tracking?
- How can companies implement the principles of privacy by design, simplified consumer choice, and increased transparency when designing and using these technologies?
To File Electronically:
To make sure that the Commission considers your online comment, you must file it at https://ftcpublic.commentworks.com/ftc/springprivacyworkshop, by following the instructions on the web-based form.
To File in Paper Form:
Postal mail addressed to the Commission is subject to delay due to heightened security screening. As a result, we encourage you to submit your comments online. If you file your comment on paper, write “Spring Privacy Series: Mobile Device Tracking, Project No. P145401,” on your comment and on the envelope, and mail or deliver it to the following address:
Federal Trade Commission, Office of the Secretary
Room H-113 (Annex J)
600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20580
If possible, submit your paper comment to the Commission by courier or overnight service.
Comments will be posted on this website:
Your comment—including your name and your state—will be placed on the public record of this proceeding. As a matter of discretion, the Commission tries to remove individuals’ home contact information from comments before placing them on the Commission Website.
Because your comment will be made public, you are solely responsible for making sure that your comment does not include any sensitive personal information, like anyone’s Social Security number, date of birth, driver’s license number or other state identification number or foreign country equivalent, passport number, financial account number, or credit or debit card number. You are also solely responsible for making sure that your comment does not include any sensitive health information, like medical records or other individually identifiable health information. In addition, do not include any “[t]rade secret or any commercial or financial information which is obtained from any person and which is privileged or confidential,” as provided in Section 6(f) of the FTC Act, 15 U.S.C. § 46(f), and FTC Rule 4.10(a)(2), 16 CFR 4.10(a)(2). In particular, do not include competitively sensitive information such as costs, sales statistics, inventories, formulas, patterns, devices, manufacturing processes, or customer names.
To Request Confidential Treatment:
If you want the Commission to give your comment confidential treatment, you must file it in paper form, with a request for confidential treatment, and you have to follow the procedure explained in FTC Rule 4.9(c), 16 CFR 4.9(c). Your comment will be kept confidential only if the FTC General Counsel grants your request in accordance with the law and the public interest.
Comments That Have Been Submitted
You can view comments that have been submitted at: