We now live in a world where the moment you walk into a major department store, they are more than likely tracking what sections of the store you visit, how long you spent in each section, and which displays caused you to pause and linger. This data can be gathered as long as you are carrying your smart phone. According to an article in AdAge, a company called Nomi is further developing technology that gathers mobile-device IDs as people enter merchant locations through the merchant’s WiFi network or via small sensors that track a mobile device’s radio signals down to a one- to three-meter proximity. Nomi then uses machine learning to identify spatial relationships by crunching data on consumer footpaths. One of the major challenges associated with this technology is the encroachment on privacy. Do shoppers actually WANT their every step to be tracked, and can companies track them without consent? The issue has already created much debate.
According to The Washington Post, Maryland has just issued a bill which is currently making its way through the legislature. It would require stores to prominently display signs informing shoppers they’re being tracked on their phones. This still leads to the question: How do you educate people about their privacy rights in the age of Big Data? This is the hot topic in discussion this week in IMC 619- Emerging Media & The Market. Does putting a sign on the door telling customers they are being tracked really give them an idea of how their data will be used after they leave the store? Probably not.
One thing may be certain: as consumers we need to self-educate about the devices we use each and every day. We need to learn the full operating capabilities of the powerful tools that help us connect with the world. The truth is, it goes both ways. Those devices allow the world to connect back with us, and many times that requires sharing or illegally using our private information.