Strategies for Overcoming Privacy Concerns With Indoor Navigation Apps

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Wifi_logoWhen it comes to the widespread adoption of indoor positioning and navigation tools among retailers, technology isn’t nearly as big of a barrier as consumer pushback. Although 62% of smartphone users say they are aware that advertisers are tracking their mobile activities, according to a survey by TRUSTe, only 1% say they like it and only one-in-10 would willingly consent to sharing their location data with marketers.

Overcoming these concerns is a top priority for the vendors who provide indoor location technologies to retailers. To help answer the question of how indoor navigation providers should help their clients deal with these issues, we reached out to experts in the industry. Here are their strategies for success.

1. Require customers to opt-in, rather than opting-out. “Merchants really need to be transparent with indoor location practices, and tracking consumer movement should be opt-in. One thing we love about our own technology is it’s opt-in by the optical nature of the medium. A consumer needs to take his or her phone out of their pocket and engage with light-based location beacons around them to pinpoint their indoor location. An opt-in solution where consumers are in control, and ultimately receive a better shopping experience based on leveraging location data is the most likely to succeed.” (Dan Ryan, ByteLight)

2. Don’t save personal information. “We recommend working with systems that, unless specific permission is given, do not save or track personal information. Retailers considering location services are in broad, good company with their peers. Most major retailers today are looking at piloting and implementing these systems. We recommend selecting vendors that do not see personal information, and even remove the MAC address or serial number of the devices they ‘see.’ Even though MAC addresses can’t be traced back to users without law enforcement, it’s a level of protection that should be customary in the industry.” (Jon Rosen, iInside)

3. Post in-store signage. “Simple, clear signage with a QR code in the front of the store allows consumers to immediately opt-out with their devices. If they’ve opted out, then the only way they should be tracked by the retailer is if they have opted back in. Possibly, retailers may want to create a central ‘do not track’ database that clearly defines which parties have opted out.” (Michael MacMillan, Vizualize)

4. Make consumer choices permanent. “We believe there are some best practices that all smartphone detection solutions should follow, including providing permanent opt-out capability. Retailers should not use any smartphone detection platform that doesn’t offer this capability. The good news for retailers is that they have other options for understanding what shoppers are doing inside their stores that are much less controversial, including in-store analytics based on video. This approach is proven, widely deployed, and used around the world. And because video cameras are visible and have been in retail stores for decades, they can avoid attaching themselves to a privacy debate that is frightening to many consumers today.” (Tim Callan, RetailNext)

5. There’s no such thing as a free lunch. “Information privacy laws need to catch up with the technological innovation and implications of ubiquitous multi-provider public wifi and the eco-systems of apps that support and run on top of them. There is obviously a benefit to consumers to have access to wifi and to the retailers and providers to understand who’s using it so that they can be better targeted. But, we have to understand there’s no such thing as a free lunch or free wifi. Detailed patterns of consumer habits and visits will enable retailers to thrive in a world that’s increasingly blurred in terms of the boundaries of online and offline shopping – those connections and indoor tracking are the way retailers will know what’s really important and profitable.” (Simon Thompson, Esri)

6. Follow the core pillars of privacy management. “Privacy boundaries are personal. What one person may find to be a valuable service another may find ‘creepy’ and intrusive. The best practice for any commercial entity to address the issues of privacy is to start by following the core pillars of privacy management: choice (consumer can choose to participate or not), control (they have control of the aspects of participating), transparency (the marketer is completely transparent as to what is going on and how they’ll use data) and security — the marketer is employing best practices in data security. (Michael Becker, Somo)

Interviews have been edited for length and clarity.

Stephanie Miles is an associate editor at Street Fight.

Stephanie Miles is a journalist who covers personal finance, technology, and real estate. As Street Fight’s senior editor, she is particularly interested in how local merchants and national brands are utilizing hyperlocal technology to reach consumers. She has written for FHM, the Daily News, Working World, Gawker, Cityfile, and Recessionwire.