US Sen. Schumer Seeks Retailer Disclosures For Location Tracking

charles-schumerAs online retailers face increasing pressure to inform consumers when their Web activities are being tracked, US Sen. Charles Schumer wants brick-and-mortar stores to do the same.

Earlier this week, Schumer, D-NY, unveiled a code of conduct that would require retailers that collect consumers’ mobile data to post in-store signs letting shoppers know they are being tracked and provide instructions on how to opt out of the tracking technology.

The senator developed the code of conduct with the Future of Privacy Forum, a DC-based advocacy group led by Jules Polonetsky, the former chief privacy officer for AOL and DoubleClick, and several location analytics companies. These companies include Euclid Analytics, iInside, Mexia Interactive, Radius Networks and Brickstream.

“This summer I had asked the FTC to look at retail location tracking and issue some guidelines … but we don’t need the FTC because the industry stepped up without being required to,” Schumer said today at the StreetFight Summit. “The signs will allow greater transparency and cellphone tracking will be out in the open.”

Under the code, companies that collect consumers’ mobile data must limit how the information is used and shared and how long it may be retained. The code also requires companies to get opt-in consent when personal information is collected, or when a consumer will be contacted. It is not clear yet if any retailers have agreed to post these signs.

Schumer’s code of conduct follows other efforts by policy makers to get companies to be more transparent about their data collecting and ad-targeting practices. Earlier this month, California Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law a bill that requires websites to provide a privacy policy that identifies the type of personally identifiable information they’re collecting about California residents and with whom they’re sharing the information, starting in January.

And in February, US Sen. Jay Rockefeller introduced the Do-Not-Track Online Act of 2013, which has yet to move past the congressional committee assigned to review it.

In a session following Schumer’s speech, Polonetsky argued that businesses should be more concerned about aggravating consumers instead of lawmakers.

“We sometimes worry about Congress getting in our way, but I’d say worry about consumers driving technology for solving what they perceive to be a problem,” Polonetsky said. “You don’t want to be a problem for consumers in our world, because someone, either a viral software or a browser or operating system, will solve it for you. Someone will stop us, and it’ll probably be the consumer.”

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