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We (were) watching you: Nordstrom stops tracking customers in stores

SEATTLE — Some shoppers were unsettled to hear Monday that venerable Seattle retailer Nordstrom was tracking customers in its stores via Wi-Fi signals from their smartphones.

Two stores in the Seattle area were part of the program — the downtown Nordstrom Rack and the Southcenter store. The store ended the program in May.

The story was reported by the New York Times.

While the store’s tracking showed that you really weren’t alone in that dressing room, Nordstrom said the program ended in May, in part due to customer complaints received after the practice was made public.

Nordstrom spokeswoman Tara Darrow said it was just a test program and the company didn’t retain any of the data.

“That’s more personal, it’s my privacy,” said Seattle shopper Maryann Juvera. “I don’t like people that I don’t know being able to know where I am.”

“It’s a little bit of a violation and it makes me feel distrusted,” added  shopper Janine Cashin.

Last year, Nordstrom wanted to monitor foot traffic in its stores, so it hired a technology company called Euclid to install sensors.  According to Euclid’s website, the sensors track customers by the Wi-Fi signals coming off their smartphones. They can tell when a customer enters a store, where they go and how long they stay.

Euclid declined requests for an interview, but referred to their privacy statement online, which says “no personally identifiable information is collected or used. Real-world identity cannot be determined by Euclid.”

“Considering what’s been going in the highest levels of government, it makes me a little uncomfortable,” said shopper Jim Pritchard. “Information is just information unless it’s used the wrong way.”

But at least one shopper says if the info is used to make a better shopping experience, then she’s OK with it.

“In this generation, we don’t have very much privacy,” said Kristina Echols. “For people to pretend that we do, it’s not something that’s there anymore. So if it’s something that’s benefitting me, then why not?”

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