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Sen. Franken Calls for End to Disturbing Consumer Tracking Trend

Tech Firm’s Response to Senator’s Inquiry Confirms Need for Privacy Protections

Monday, April 1, 2013

Today, U.S. Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) once again called for an end to the practice of tracking consumer movements – through stores, within malls, and even from state to state – all without their permission. Last month, he pressed a leading analytics firm to stop using technology that allows it to track people’s smartphone locations without their permission. Today, he released the company’s response, highlighting the company’s good faith, but saying it doesn’t go far enough to protect consumers.

“People have a fundamental right to privacy, and tracking a consumer's location and movements without permission violates that right,” said Sen. Franken. “I believe that Euclid has a sincere desire to protect consumer privacy, and I'm pleased that they've pledged to do even more – including a promise to never sell consumer data to data brokers. However, Euclid's use of opt-out location tracking – regardless of whether a consumer actually enters a store equipped with this technology – simply doesn't meet the standard of privacy Americans should be able to count on. I’m pleased that privacy is a priority for Euclid, but their continued use of opt-out technology underscores the need for Congressional action to protect consumer location privacy.”

Euclid, Inc. keeps tabs on consumers as they walk past a store, enter a store, or move between a store’s floors by tracking a unique and permanent hardware number transmitted by consumers’ smartphones. Unless a consumer visits Euclid's website to opt-out of being tracked, their location is collected without their permission or knowledge. 

Sen. Franken’s March letter was prompted by news reports suggesting that Euclid's technology has used cellphone location technology to track the shopping habits of approximately 50 million consumers without their permission. Euclid responded promptly to Sen. Franken’s request, pledging to protect the privacy of their consumers by:

  • Requiring all participating retailers to post signage telling consumers how to opt-out of tracking;
  • Requiring all retailers to undergo a comprehensive education program about the opt-out process;
  • Strengthening the company's privacy policy to prohibit the sale, rental, or disclosure of any of Euclid’s data to data brokers; and
  • Creating a formal policy outlining the company's requirements for a warrant or court order to comply with any request for data.

In 2011, Sen. Franken introduced the Location Privacy Protection Act to protect consumer privacy by requiring companies to get permission before collecting or sharing consumers’ location data. The legislation was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee in December of 2012, and Sen. Franken plans to reintroduce it in the coming months.

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