French privacy watchdog limits store geolocation

French privacy watchdog limits store geolocation

Using smartphone signals to detect how long customers spend watching ads or what route he takes, it seems like an advertiser's dream. The French privacy watchdog has now limited retailers (and tracking companies) in what they can do.

"Consumer privacy endangered"

"Has CNIL nullified store geolocation" is a question a lot of French retailers will ask now that the organization (Commission National de l'Informatique et des Libertés) has drafted strict rules about what retailers can track about their consumers. Retailers want to use this information, like which route consumers take or how long they view an advertisement, in order to change their commercial strategy.

 

The French privacy watchdog demands that retailers who use these techniques mention it to a special committee, while they also inform their customers and visitors what they are doing and for what purposes. The retailer also has to destroy all individual "data" as soon as the customer leaves the store. Camera images cannot be recorded or stored and not be passed on to a third party.

 

The watchdog has opened the door slightly though: store geolocation is allowed if the system has an algorithm that could make all data anonymous and groups it together, which would mean that individual observations are no longer possible. "Using such an algorithm would still enable estimates of the number of customers that return to the store, with a margin of error that won't harm the retailer and which will also assure the customer's privacy", CNIL believes. In that case, the consumer does not have to give permission.

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