A Manor store in Basel analyses customer movements by accessing phone data via the wi-fi connections of mobile phones. Every smart phone emits a wi-fi signal along with the phone’s unique identifier or MAC address. Once the system has accessed the phone and picked up its MAC address, the phone and its user’s movements can be tracked. The only way to stop this is to switch off the phone’s wi-fi and bluetooth connections.
According to the newspaper Tages Anzeiger, the Manor store in Basel has a small sign at the entrance that states “We are currently undertaking an anonymous statistical analysis of customer movements. If you don’t want to participate, please switch off your wi-fi and bluetooth connections.”
The article quotes an IT consultant commenting “I know of no other retailer that uses this kind of method. Globus once tracked its shoppers before quickly ending the trial” he added. Manor’s spokesperson said that it is a temporary project, used only in supermarket aisles to measure footsteps to help with the design of larger aisles.
Despite these explanations the institute for consumer protection takes a dim view of this new technique. “Even though the retailer is required to inform customers we still wouldn’t like this practice to spread. And current data protection law doesn’t prohibit it.” confirmed Sara Stalder.
The law allows the practice provided the data collected is anonymous and deleted reasonably quickly.
Full article on 20 Minutes (in French)