Monday, May 13, 2013

Nordstrom's snoops on where you go in their stores

I'm not sure that this is exactly bad, but it doesn't really smell good:
"You've spent quite some time in the lingerie department, but you haven't even peeked at our display of Bose® 'OE2' Audio Headphones, which were $149.95 but are now ONLY $134.96! Can we talk?"
OK, so that's not exactly what Nordstrom says it's planning to do with the information it gleans from tracking customers' movements throughout their stores.
But it certainly could market that aggressively, now that the department store - purveyor of apparel, shoes, jewelry, and the like - has implemented technology to track how much time you spend in specific departments within 17 stores in the US.
None of this is - or should be - illegal.  However, my privacy hackles are up a bit.  I sure hope they think the data is valuable, because it's burning customer good will.


Dave H said...

I'd like to think they at least notify visitors of the data-taking somehow. Like making them click a checkbox agreeing to the Terms of Service printed on the front door before allowing them in.

TheAxe said...

No one reads terms of service anyway.

Glenn B said...

Privacy concerns when you are on another person's property, I don't see them except when you are in the restrooms or in the fitting rooms or talking about something on your person (and that does not mean the whereabouts of your person). What expectation of privacy could you have in a department store other than that?

Goober said...

Meh. Color me whatever color "I don't care" is. Private companies doing stuff on their own property all have one thing in common: if I don't like what they are doing, I can choose not to go there and do business with them.

Its the government doing this sort of stuff that bothers me because with them, I don't have that choice. They have that whole monopoly on force and coercion thing going for them.

Ken said...

Nordstrom is customarily the poster child for customer service. If they're sensible, they'll implement informed consent (opt-in) and offer a customer incentive for participation. If one's stock in trade is customer relationships, there's a right way to play this.

Mark Philip Alger said...

Sorry. Must respectfully disagree. If privacy is to have any meaning or value, it must be absolute. You may have limited expectations of privacy in anothers's home, perhaps, but a department store is a public accommodation and must hew to the same rules as the state. Lunch Counter Civil Rights stuff requires that.

(Hey, if you can breach a business owner's First Amendment rights (free association/assembly) in the service of one, you kinda have to in the other.)

I go farther an argue that Terms of Service "agreements" cannot trump Fourth Amendment rights to privacy. What? Not government? Where in the amendment does it say "the state"? Hmm? Why DON'T you own the information ABOUT you? Isn't that a part of your rights of self-ownership? If you own it, how can the state or a business steal it from you for its own purposes? Hmm?


Goober said...

Mark, again, I reiterate - if you don't like it, don't go.

Is it private property or isn't it?

Rick C said...

Two things: one, privacy isn't really violated here: all they are doing is keeping track of where you are by noting which Wi-Fi points your phone is trying to connect to; you can always turn off the radio. Second, they announced they have already stopped doing it.

Divemedic said...

Goober: "Private companies doing stuff on their own property all have one thing in common: if I don't like what they are doing, I can choose not to go there and do business with them."

I reject this "property owner is an absolute monarch on his property theory" as absolute hogwash. This theory would hold that a property owner is free to rape any woman who enters his property. After all, if she didn't like being raped, she shouldn't enter his property.

Why is this? Because a property owner that opens his business and property to the public invites that public to enter his property with their rights intact.

What results is a meeting in the middle of the two sets of rights, with neither side having an absolute set of rights.

Mark Philip Alger said...


So, by you, an individual surrenders all rights once he steps onto the property of another individual? Life. Liberty. Self-defense? Really? After all, that is the reductio ad absurdam of your contention.