Stores tracking shoppers` behavior through cell phones - FOX13 News, WHBQ FOX 13

Stores tracking shoppers` behavior through cell phones, surveillance

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

Some retail stores are tracking you while you shop.

From dollar stores to Nordstrom, retailers have experimented with tracing shoppers' cell phones to find out what departments they visit.

The stores say they could use the info to change store layouts or give shoppers personalized coupons, similar to how online retailers use pop-ups.

If you shopped at Nordstrom Rack on State Street and Washington recently you may or may not have noticed a sign telling customers that they were being tracked. Last September, Nordstrom tested new technology through May of this year, tracking customers' movements through their cell phones' Wi-Fi signals.

"I think that's kinda creepy," says Andrew Nguyen. "They shouldn't be doing that. It's an invasion of privacy."

"It makes me feel scared," Adriana Munoz agrees. "They can see my every move."

Nordstrom is just one of dozens of national brick-and-mortar retailers like Family Dollar and Cabela's trying to track how people shop, the way online retailers can with cookies. They're testing out the use of video surveillance and cell phone signals to watch and gather data about how long it takes someone to buy an item and other shopping behaviors.

"It makes me not want to go into the store," Chicago resident Tina Mitchell comments. "I'd rather deal with an Amazon. At least I know I'm putting my information out there, not taking info without me knowing they have it."

In a statement Nordstrom, the data collection company says, "Euclid provided Nordstrom with anonymous, aggregate reports that gave us a better sense of customer foot traffic. Using this type of technology is another way for us to find opportunities to improve the service we offer customers. "

Chicago Kent College of Law Professor Lori Andrews says data collection companies have been gathering information about you for years. It's is now a multi-billion dollar industry.

"There are now companies called data aggregators," she explains. "One of them has 1600 bits of information on 96% of Americans -- what you bought, where."

While the new technology can mean customized coupons for shoppers, Andrews says all this data can be used against you.

So is this an invasion of privacy? Professor Andrews says this technology that is being tested in stores might be able to be challenged on privacy grounds, though some stores try to get away with it by putting up a sign that serves as an implicit consent.

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