Friday 30 December 2016

Is The High-Street Giants Tracking Your Every Single Moves


High Street giants including Marks & Spencer, TopShop and Dune secretly track shoppers movements using signals from mobile phone wi-fi.

Retailers say that the technology allows them to better understand customers and improve the shopping experience in store – and that the data they collect is anonymous.

The technology works by tracking ‘pings’ sent by smartphones connected to in store wi-fi, feeding back location information and monitoring the movement of shoppers.

The data is used by big shops to change the layout of their stores, change staffing rotas and even send discounts direct to your mobile phone.

Finnish company Walkbase works with over 30 retailers to monitor and analyse wi-fi data from shoppers in thousands of stores around the UK.

Many of the big brands that it works with have made the company sign a non-disclosure agreement, preventing the firm from talking about the information it gathers and even the shops where the technology is installed.


Some shops, like footwear store Dune, are more open about they use the technology. The data collected by Walkbase in its stores is used to measure how many people walk in it and buy versus those that walk in and walk out again, without completing a purchase.

This information helped the shoe chain change the way it staff stores, improving efficiency.

Walkbase also completed a report for supermarket Morrisons. It looked at the amount of customers arriving in stores, the busiest times of the day at the checkout and helped it change staffing rotas to have more tills open at key times.

The tech firm also helped Arcadia change the opening times of its London Oxford Street flagship store, according to the Daily Telegraph.

Marks & Spencers confirmed that it is currently running a trial using the technology in four stores, looking at “customer footfall” and “movement of smartphones”.

*** 13 Ways Your Online Privacy Was Violated In 2016

The retailer said that it doesn’t look at any personal information and are not targeting customers with discount or ads.

A Marks & Spencer spokesperson said: “We are running a small four store trial which exclusively looks at customer footfall via the movement of smartphones in our stores. This allows us to better understand when our stores, and specific departments in our stores, are busy and no personal customer data is gathered.”

Ed Armishaw, head of customer acquisition, from Walkbase said: “With the high street struggling this is a way for them to fight back.

“We’re not tracking individuals, we can’t see their search history or browsing information.

“We use the information to provide analytics to the store to help them run their stores more efficiently.

“If someone doesn’t want to be picked up by the system they can remove themselves via or they can turn wi-fi off on their mobile phone.


Privacy campaigners have warned that shoppers should be given more warning about the information they are handing over.

Renata Samson, the chief executive of Big Brother Watch, said: “When you’re out and about shopping and you want to use your wi-fi in a store you are prompted to hand over details to log in.

“Suddenly you’re providing the shop with your name, address and mobile phone data. That data – can be – sold and shared and used as marketing information.

“Not only is your purchase monitored through your debit card or credit card or through information at the till, whether it’s signing up for an email receipt or whether it’s your movements being monitored by wi-fi connections.

*** How Can I Protect Myself From Government Snoopers?

“There are ways to protect yourself from hackers who mimic public wi-fi connections. Use data rather than public wi-fi or you can download a VPN (virtual private network) which will make all your browsing a secret.”



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