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Location Based Marketing: Ethics and Privacy Concerns

August 21, 2014 by Nicole Arena

WiFi SnoopingThey can see where you go, how often, how long you stay there and what time you typically leave. No, we’re not talking about cyber criminals. We’re talking about retailers.

In 2014, location based marketing has become an increasingly popular marketing tool for businesses to evaluate consumers’ habits and preferences. Trackers collect pings from your cell phone and are able to tell businesses a wealth of information about you including the times you shop, where you shop, how long you stay in a store and how often you frequent a store. Businesses then take this information and decide how to best sell their product to you.

“It’s one of the technologies that almost every retailer is using, testing, or looking to use in 2014,” said Jules Polonetsky, executive director of the Future of Privacy Forum, in the Financial Post.

This new method of tracking has many concerned about personal privacy. In a recent survey by Punchtab, more than 50 percent of participants did not want to be tracked by retailers at all. About 27 percent were open to it, under certain circumstances. Of the 50 percent of consumers who preferred not to be tracked, most cited “privacy” as the number one reason why. Those who were open to tracking by retailers were willing to exchange some of their data for coupons or special offers, among other reasons.

What’s most concerning about location based marketing from a privacy perspective is that many consumers are unaware they are being tracked. This method of marketing is legal and businesses often slip the disclosure that they are tracking you into lengthy terms of service contracts that are unlikely to be read.

According to Marketing Week, there are a number of apps you can use to block mobile tracking, including Xprivacy, Ghostery and AVG PrivacyFix. Not only do these applications protect your mobile device via blocking, they also control permissions for data use.

To hear more about this topic, you can vote to see Experian’s CIO Adam Tyler at SXSW 2015, where he will take a deep dive into mobile tracking and what consumers should do to protect themselves and what businesses need to do to protect their shoppers. Check out his panel, Wi-Fi Privacy: When Sniffing Becomes Snooping, and vote!

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