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Lawmakers weigh restrictions on tracking shoppers via Wi-Fi

CORRECTION: A Capital News Service story about legislation that would prohibit Maryland retailers from using consumer cellphone Wi-Fi signals to track their shopping habits without notice, included a quote that was inaccurately attributed to Marceline White, executive director of the Maryland Consumer Rights Coalition. Instead, Delegate Sam Arora, D-Montgomery, said: “You would be surprised how much information stores know about you as soon as you walk in the door.” In addition, the last name of Patrick Donoho, President of the Maryland Retailers Association, was misspelled.

By Patrick Farrell
Capital News Service

ANNAPOLIS, Md. — A bill proposed to the House Economics Committee on Friday would prohibit Maryland retailers from using consumer cellphone Wi-Fi signals to track their shopping habits, unless merchants post notices at store entrances.

Using a customer’s Wi-Fi signal, retailers are able to track individual shopping habits – from venue to venue – and then use this data to provide businesses with detailed audience reports.

“You would be surprised how much information stores know about you as soon as you walk in the door,” said Marceline White, executive director of the Maryland Consumer Rights Coalition.

Two companies – Turnstyle Solutions and RetailNext – are currently paving the way for this new form of customer analytics, White said.

These tracking technologies allow retailers to identify repeat customers and observe consumers walk through stores, according to a legislative analysis of the proposal.

While the proposed bill would do nothing to end these practices, it would require stores to display notices at every entrance to alert customers that their shopping habits are being tracked.

“We certainly know [retailers] have loyalty cards


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