Do Retailers Track You More Than the Government Does?

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We're watched through our computers, through our smartphones, and in stores — all to make businesses more money. Does it bother you?

Whether or not you’re concerned about the revelations that the NSA could be digging through your personal information, private companies might be just as bad, if not worse.

CNN and BuzzFeed came up with 10 ways we’re already giving up data, including to social networks and other businesses that track you or use your data to sell things. Here are some of them:

  • Last year, Facebook bought data on 70 million U.S. households and has been tracking user behavior to help businesses tailor ads designed to reach them.
  • Twitter just partnered with major global ad firm WPP Group, which will use the site’s data “to set up a way to better monitor real-time consumer behavior,” CNN says.
  • Retailers are using eye-tracking technology to see what you look at in stores. Sometimes the cameras are in mannequins.
  • Department stores such as Nordstrom use their Wi-Fi networks to track smartphone users’ location and movements. (You can opt out.)
  • Target has a system that tracks purchase history and analyzes it to make recommendations and give coupons. It works so well that “a Target in Minneapolis determined that a teenager was pregnant before she did,” CNN says.

For better or worse, this is the new normal. CNN also mentions that local law enforcement agencies are building DNA databases of crime suspects, and we recently wrote about how credit bureaus are watching our Facebook posts for signs of fraud.

Where do you expect privacy these days — anywhere? Are you concerned, or are these legitimate uses of our data? Share your thoughts on our Facebook page.

Stacy Johnson

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