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Your Privacy Won’t Be The Cost Of A Better Shopping Experience

Several analytics firms say they'll soon give shoppers the option to go unnoticed by tracking technology.
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77654_Mike Binkley WEB Mike Binkley
Mike Binkley has been covering Minnesota news for more than 25 ye...
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MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. (WCCO) – You probably don’t realize it when you’re shopping, but many companies use technology to track your movements.

Now some of them have agreed to post signs letting you know, and giving you the chance to opt out.

Cell phones can act as a personal tracking device, and the signals coming from it can tell retailers a lot about what we want.

That’s why many of them have hired firms such as RetailNext, which pledges to analyze shoppers’ movements, “where they go, what they look at, where they stop and what they buy.”

Some shoppers like Ayanna Baldwin are concerned about privacy.

“Oh, that’s creepy!” she said.

But the retailers who use the technology say it’s for the consumers’ benefit. It’s about spotting trends, so shoppers like Luke Powell can get in and out and find what they want.

“If I’m going for a pair of shoes, I want to get my size and I want to walk out with it right then,” Powell said. “I want that instant gratification.”

It’s what online retailers have done well, by analyzing information supplied by the shoppers with earlier purchases. Deals are then targeted to them.

Bruce Snustad, president of the Minnesota Retailers Association, said shoppers have come to expect a more personalized experience.

“There’s a lot of competition for customers,” he said, “and retailers are trying to deliver the best experience for the customers that they can.”

It’s not clear how many stores are now using the analytics technology, but shoppers whose phones have their wi-fi or Bluetooth turned on are easier to track. Powell doesn’t intend to turn his off.

“Perfectly fine,” he said, “because it’s just going to make my consumer experience better in the future.”

The tracking technology companies say they’re not collecting personal information, just analyzing patterns.

Seven of those firms, Euclid, Ilnside, Mexia Interactive, Solomo, Radius Networks, Brickstream and Turnstyle Solutions, have agreed to a new conduct which will post signs and allow shoppers to opt out.

It will take about six months before it can be implemented. First, new technology has to be developed to block the tracking technology.

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