Is Big Brother watching you while you shop? Not at Nordstom — at least, not anymore. The retailer announced this month that store sensors would no longer track data from customer smartphones.
The cancellation of Nordstrom’s policy came on the heels of a CBS news story informing customers that the mega-chain had been using wireless signals to monitor their movements and habits in the store.
The tracking system detected iPhones, Android phones and other smartphones whenever the mobile device attempted to connect to WiFi networks in Nordstrom stores.
Although the data was ostensibly being collected to measure foot traffic in different areas of the stores, customers worried that their personal information was at risk. Nordstrom responded to their privacy concerns and complaints by cancelling the program.
Shoppers Send Signal to Stop WiFi Tracking
The experiment to track shoppers through different departments, called Euclid, began in September 2012. The idea was to pick up signals from smart phones which were attempting to use the in-store wireless internet.
Some consumers may have been actively attempting to access the store’s WiFi, while other phones were attempting to connect automatically from inside the user’s purse or pocket. Once these devices were pinpointed, Nordstrom analysts were able to track their locations and determine which parts of their stores were most populated at certain times of day.
However, following negative public attention after a CBS news report revealed the tracking policy, Nordstrom spokesperson Tara Darrow says the company decided to discontinue these activities:
We’d been testing Euclid since September and have said all along this was a test for us. We had been discussing what made sense in terms of concluding the test; after 8 months we’d felt like we had learned a lot and determined that it was the right time to end it.
Hopefully for the superstore, the announcement hasn’t come too late for their core customer base, but some skeptical shoppers may not be so quick to forgive the privacy violation.
Cell Phone Privacy is an Important Issue for Today’s Consumer
After the CBS story, scores of Nordstrom customers caused the WiFi tracking to be shut down by letting their voice be heard.
From angry comments on the CBS Facebook page to numerous customer service calls, Nordstrom quickly caught on to the fact that no one wishes to have their information tapped without permission — even if it’s simply your location while you shop.
The Public anxiety over Nordstrom’s Euclid system indicates that consumers want to ensure that their privacy is safe and respected. In addition to the potential risk of identity theft, it’s troubling for some that a retailer would gather private data without customer consent.
After all, if the store doesn’t inform you that you’re being tracked, then what else may be shared without your permission?
Speak Up to Protect Your Personal Info
Thanks to hundreds of consumers who stepped up and complained about the wireless phone sensors, Nordstrom customers are now able to breathe easy knowing they’re safe from location tracking. By complaining through major news outlets and social media sites, shoppers were able to voice their dissatisfaction.
But many other business use similar tactics to map out and analyze their customer base, making it easier to advertise to you during your shopping experience.
So if you feel like a business is employing illegal or unethical practices to gather your personal information, use Scambook’s consumer complaint platform to get the ball rolling towards consumer justice!
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