NEWS15 August 2013

MRA backs calls for mobile tracking opt out for shoppers

Government North America

US — American researchers have backed a senator’s call to give shoppers the opportunity to opt out of tracking them in the retail environment.

In response to a growing practice of tracking shoppers’ movements around retail establishments, Senator Chuck Schumer recently called for specific federal privacy rules limiting the practice calling on the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) “to require that retailers give shoppers a clear and obvious opportunity to “opt-out” before tracking them.” 

He added: “Cell phone tracking is intrusive and unsettling – it’s as if you are being followed around while shopping at the mall, with someone looking over your shoulder at every product you’re considering. If you’re shopping, you expect to be the one doing the reviewing, but stores are flipping that on its head, and treating the consumers as the products.”

The Marketing Research Association (MRA) agreed that shopper tracking posed a problem for consumer privacy and choice and that notice and opt out consent (available in some fashion other than having to turn off someone’s phone’s wifi function) should be expected.

The association added that there were likely steps that could be taken to make shopper tracking more transparent to consumers and ways to make the opt-out easier, such as prominent QR codes for consumers to scan with their mobile phones and notifications with one-step opt-out instructions delivered directly to consumers’ phones.

MRA director of government affairs Howard Fienberg said: “While we would not like to see the FTC specify exactly how the mechanisms should work, the agency could presumably enforce violations of such a broad standard under its Section 5 authority to prosecute unfair or deceptive practices.”