Trade some privacy for a special offer? Consumers aren't sure

Results show consumers plan to shop online, but are less excited about being tracked

By , IDG News Service |  Security, privacy

Consumers are getting more aware that they can be tracked while they walk around stores but plenty still feel uncomfortable about it, according to a new survey.

Nearly half of respondents said they would find it invasive if a store sent them a special offer via text message for a product they were walking past at that moment, according to the survey results released Tuesday by ISACA, a nonprofit group serving IT professionals.

One third of the survey's roughly 1,200 respondents said they would also find it invasive if the store sent a discount coupon to their smartphone as they walked in the door.

People want to use their mobile devices to help them shop, but many don't want retailers to track their location while they do it, the survey showed.

The results shed some light on consumer attitudes to the emerging area of location-based marketing, in which stores use tracking devices like Wi-Fi beacons to push super-localized marketing content to shoppers.

The findings show a growing number of people are becoming aware of the practice, and there are some who think the in-the-moment-deals are worth the trade off -- one third of respondents said it would not be invasive to receive discounts via text or have clerks greet them by name even when they didn't know them.

"People are starting to think through the implications of giving companies this type of information," said Robert Stroud, chair of the COBIT growth task force at ISACA, who helped oversee development of the survey.

Location-based advertising is a growing area. Companies including GISi Indoors, Nokia and Path Intelligence gathered in San Francisco last month for the first Place indoor-marketing summit.

The Internet is still a prime vehicle for shopping. U.S. consumers expect to spend an average of nine hours shopping on their PCs, smartphones and tablets during November and December, according to the survey, which examined a range of issues related to online privacy, security and personal information.

Many don't pay much attention to the terms of the services they're using. Around half of respondents said they never or rarely read the privacy policies on their mobile phone or tablet before sharing their information.

The survey's findings suggest people are less comfortable being tracked on their mobile devices in a store than as they surf around the Web. Only 35 percent of respondents said it would be invasive for a website to know their geographic location, like their city or zip code.

At the same time, half of the survey's respondents said they felt they had no control over how websites used their information.

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