In 2011, news that Apple was tracking iPhone and iPad users’ locations and time stamps triggered Senate scrutiny. The scandal known as “Locationgate” resurfaced recently when researchers publicized similarities in iOS 7. The media is now reporting that telecommunications giants aren’t the only ones tracking consumer locations. Stores are doing it, too. While stores are making a profit with tracking, it is also designed to help consumers with relevancy and deals. The question is, are the benefits that come with store tracking worth it?

Wireless Wiretapping

Wireless providers such as are required to ensure constitutional compliance when sharing private information with government agencies. However, businesses face fewer barriers to receiving the same information. In March 2013, “The New York Times” reported that a company called Euclid Analytics has been helping retailers track the cell phones of 50 million customers for the past three years. Wi-Fi antennas record how many cell phone users enter stores, where they walk and how long they stay. Retailers use the information to analyze how many visitors enter without purchasing, determine if enough sales representatives are available and estimate if enough cash registers are open.

The information that Euclid provides clients is stripped of personal information, but the company collects more information than it shares, chief executive Will Smith told the Times. But a follow-up Times piece this July reported some stores are combining analytics information with phone numbers to identify individuals and access their customer profiles.

Advocates argue it benefits both retailers and customers by enabling stores to adjust store layouts to buyer preferences. They encourage stores to overcome buyer resistance by presenting analytics as a way of customizing customer experience and benefiting consumers. Some consumers have expressed willingness to trade their cell phone information for a discount coupon.

You’re on Consumer Camera

These issues acquire another dimension when camera technology is added to the picture. Stores are also using videos to track customers. The cameras are powerful enough to not only follow visitors, but see what they’re looking at and even identify their mood from facial recognition features. Some stores use buyer emotional cues to suggest purchases.

The Future of Sales

What could be done with this information? Conceivably, it could be combined with other data to tell sales representatives who you are, what your buying patterns are, what you’re considering buying and how much credit you have. An android sales representative could even be deployed to your location to influence your purchases and selling could be semi-automated. On the other hand, semi-automated selling and purchasing can benefit the consumer with personalized advertising and specialized deals so you’re not being pitched what you don’t need. The debate is open on both sides. The benefits are there, but how much of your personal information are you willing to share?