Is tracking customers good for you or for businesses?

Whenever you go shopping these days, the chances are that your shopping behaviour is being tracked.

Businesses argue that they do this because they can more easily target suitable advertisements or product suggestions to help you, the customer, get the best out of your shopping experience.

That may be all well and good, but it’s also about the businesses making sure you go back to them when you need something.

The problem for me, however, is that whilst tracking customers’ shopping behaviour may appear to be a harmless exercise on the surface, it is still possibly a case of infringing on privacy.

In fact, it isn’t just tracking shoppers that I think is possibly going too far.  There is technology around that can even track your movements or position.  For instance, Indoor Positioning System or IPS for short can now track where you are exactly, providing your mobile device has its Wi-Fi switched on.

Another similar Android app that is a hybrid between GPS and IPS is called Skyhook.  What is interesting about this particular app is that it can profile individual devices and not identify people.  For example, if the device is tracked to, say, a sports hall or a particular shop, any company using Skyhook could reasonably assume the person using it is a sports fan or a regular shopper at that store.

Similarly, if a laptop is tracked regularly at airports, it could be concluded that the individual is a business traveller.

So, while some tracking technology could invade privacy it seems that Skyhook may be a useful addition to a business while maintaining a person’s anonymity.

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