Nordstrom ends smartphone surveillance program that tracked in-store behavior of shoppers

Seattle Nordstrom (Photo: Prayitno0

Seattle Nordstrom. Photo: Prayitno0

The National Security Agency surveillance scandal has shed light on how the U.S. government tracks citizens and non-citizens online. But now Nordstrom — the iconic 112-year-old Seattle retailer — is caught up in a spying scandal of its own for the way it tracked the Wi-Fi signals of customers’ cell phones who entered some of its stores.

The New York Times reports on the practice, which ended in May after an uproar by customers.

In this era of big data, retailers are doing everything they can to track the buying patterns of shoppers, a practice that Amazon.com has masterminded online.

However, in the real world, many people still largely think this kind of tracking is, well, creepy.

The New York Times reports:

Nordstrom’s experiment is part of a movement by retailers to gather data about in-store shoppers’ behavior and moods, using video surveillance and signals from their cellphones and apps to learn information as varied as their sex, how many minutes they spend in the candy aisle and how long they look at merchandise before buying it.

The story quotes the president of Nomi — whose technologies help retailers track individuals in stores — who notes that these technologies are bringing an “Amazon experience” to the physical store. It also mentions Seattle-based Placed, which gives cash and pre-paid gift cards to people who provide in-store location data to the company.

What do you think? Are you OK with cookies tracking your online movements? But what about those that track where you go in the brick-and-mortar world?

  • http://www.blockbeta.com Robbin Block

    If people opt in, like with Placed.com, they’re willing to give up some level of privacy.