The Digital Signage Insider

Is the digital profiling of in-store shoppers a recipe for privacy disaster?

Published on: 2015-02-05

Laura Davis-Taylor asks the following over at RetailWire:

Gaze tracking technology is becoming a very exciting option for providing shopper insights such as how many people walked by a screen or display, how many looked, at what and for how long. This is true progress for the Marketing-at-Retail space, as it opens the door to real-time analytics that allow us to respond according to what works - and what doesn't.

As exciting as this new technology is, there is an active strategic debate around it. Media buyers indeed want this valuable information to help them plan their media exposures within retail stores. However, privacy sensitivity has increased over the years and this new method of tracking may not sit well with them. Do Not Call and Do Not Mail lists are alive and well in many states and DM News has recently been reporting on the proposed Do Not Cookie bill. This points to less - not more - tolerance around personal privacy in other channels.

Should in-store marketers install gaze tracking systems that profile shopper demographics or is it opening Pandora's Box to a privacy backlash?


Our take:

WireSpring's Bill Gerba contributed a response to the question, as follows:

The collection of the data is fine if a shopper has given consent to be tracked, but the logistics of keeping track of who has agreed and who hasn't in-store are very tough to solve right now, even if you use some kind of token or RFID-based system.

The bigger problem is that retailers have proven more or less inept at data security, so any private information collected is virtually certain not to remain private for long.

Retailers can't even keep credit card data safe. Why would we think they could do a better job with an even larger volume of data (and one without any current government oversight or industry regulation a'la PCI, no less)?


Comments   

0 Steve Russell 2008-05-14 18:28
Hi Bill, I suspect the privacy issue is more of a generational issue. The YouTube generation seems to thrive on video and accepts that video is everywhere. In any event, security issues will most likely continue to trump privacy issues. Take a look at the city of London after years of IRA bombings. Today you are being viewed by a camera everwhere in London. In the US I suspect IP video cameras will initially be embedded in digital signage in airports. The cost of digital analytics can be shared between the marketers and the surveillance folks. Airport security will serve as the "cover" for marketers to gather much sought after data. Once started it will become a competitve advantage that will make it a ubiquitous feature of digital signage...I think? Steve
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0 Bill Gerba 2008-05-25 02:18
Steve: interesting point. I agree that "kids today..." don't seem very concerned about privacy as well, though confusingly lots of boomers don't really seem that concerned about it either. This is surprising considering how much media hype there is around identity theft, etc. these days, and how frequently some major company or government entity somehow loses or leaks out millions of pieces of personal information like credit card numbers or SSNs. I don't really like the idea of increased surveillance in the first place, and I like the idea of using the acquired data for secondary purposes even less so. Still, I suspect that you'll probably wind up being right, and we'll be monitored every minute of the day in some form or another just because the majority of people will be OK with the idea. Still, I think the notion of privacy and monitoring is an important one, so I'm going to continue being the stick in the mud for our industry :)
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0 Bob 2013-10-27 16:12
I am writing to my congressmen to urge them to pass legislation that would require any business that uses active consumer profiling technology to be required to display a warning at the door, much like the "CCTV Monitoring" signs in use now. That way, I'll know which businesses to avoid.
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