We're watching you: location-based privacy issues

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DAA says consumer groups ready to join in new effort.
DAA says consumer groups ready to join in new effort.

Location-based services that depend upon intimate knowledge of customers' whereabouts give some customers pause. Therefore reconciling information collection with consumer privacy protection has remained top of mind for many marketers.

“Everyone wants the convenience of the location-based services, yet they do not want to be tracked,” says Seth Heine, president of KIDzOUT. “It's a trade off. You can't have one without the other.”

Orlando Veras, a Macy's media relations manager, said maintaining the privacy of its customers is important, which is why Macy's only provides its LBS and QR code services to people who opt in to the services by signing up or downloading apps.

Brian Maynard, Jenn-Air's director of marketing, says that as part of Whirlpool Corporation, the company had strict rules around protecting privacy.

“The only thing we're doing is dropping a cookie to retarget,” Maynard says of the kitchen appliances brand. “We are not capturing or keeping additional information.”

Chia Chen, Digitas' VP of digital, says all clients are concerned with maintaining consumers' privacy, and they are dealing with privacy in two ways.

The first is steering away from implementing marketing methods that violate privacy. The second is being upfront and offering full disclosure when they capture and use information. This makes content more relevant and offers better targeting methods, Chen says.

Without opting in, LBS is not as efficient. In order for LBS to work, consumers have to reveal their current location continuously. Chen says a marketers' concern is: How many consumers will actually accept these terms?

Q&A: Brian McClary, social & emerging media analyst, Ford Motor Co.

Location-based technology and QR codes are in heavy rotation at the Ford Motor Company.

Click to read full Q&A.

He says consumers will likely agree to reveal location only for the period they are searching for places near them. “It's hard to imagine they will agree to marketers using their location on an ongoing basis,” Chen says. 

Chen says one way to encourage more people to opt into services, whether LBS or QR codes, is to be clear about what people will get in return if they opt in to a service.

Sarah Van Heirseele, VP of digital for Blue Chip Marketing, says marketers no longer need to know the intimate details of a consumer. To avoid privacy issues, she encourages marketers to use what they know from insights to make smart assumptions about potential customers

“Ask for information only when you need to — otherwise don't ask. It's a barrier,” Van Heirseele says. “As you build the relationship then you can ask for more.”

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