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My big privacy dilemma with micro location & beacon services

Last week I asked one of the most respected names in identity, access management and data privacy to share his thoughts on micro-location services, beacons and data privacy.  The following is a guest post from Martijn Verbree.

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The use of micro-location services to interact and deliver personalised offers to customers like myself based on my whereabouts is increasingly being considered, trialled and tested by more and more businesses. The benefits to merchants are clear: increase customer experience, personalised marketing and of course increased data analytics. Although still in its early stages, some obvious examples are:

  • Shopping – receiving personalised offers from my store on my phone based on my proximity to certain products and my loyalty status
  • Going to the bank – receiving a ‘welcome back Martijn‘ message on my phone when I walk into the branch and my mortgage manager picking me out of the queue for our appointment
  • Click and collect – my supermarket getting my grocery order ready for collection whilst I turn into the parking lot of the store
  • Check in – my hotel checking me in automatically when I walk through the reception to collect my key card.

I believe that micro-location services has the potential to greatly influence the way we will interact and do business. Micro-location allows the digital experience that I have gotten so used to in the online world to be applied in the physical world. But to me as a consumer, this comes also at a price. Each time I walk into a store, I will be giving some information away about myself. This is not only my customer number, email address, but also bits of my demographic information like age and gender, my credit card details and –most importantly – how I move around and where I physically spend my time.

Yes, I’m talking about my privacy. Something that used to be a right, but nowadays seems to be more and more reduced to a privilege. My generation (I’m way in my thirties by the way) is probably the last generation that is naive about their privacy. Contrary to the stereotype of generation Y sharing their most personal information recklessly online, more and more polls and research publications in the wake of the Snowden revelations paint a very different picture. Younger people do care about their privacy and are probably less inclined to swap theirs for a marginal offer.

And this is in my view the greatest challenge for businesses thinking of adopting micro-location services. The benefits to the business are clear, what does it do for me? As consumers like myself become more tech savvy and privacy aware, businesses need to do better to get a slice of my whereabouts information in addition to the stuff they already have. A simple ‘welcome back’ message and a proliferation of random offers every time I move a meter down the aisle is not going to cut it. I’d be happy to trade some of my privacy, but I want to have the choice what is shared and I need to see a clear value.

Dear businesses, I’ll give you my information if you can enhance my end-to-end customer experience, including when I:

  • Turn into the parking lot, route me to a free space close to the exit, just how I like it
  • Walk through the store, provide me with a discount on something I want rather than an offer on something I do not need
  • Am in front of the deli counter in a long queue, send some more staff to me to help
  • Need some help making a choice between French or English mustard, come and find me to offer advice
  • Need to pay, allow me to skip the (self) checkout queue and settle via my phone
  • Want to leave, guide me to the barista that is making my (complimentary) flat white whilst the store staff are delivering my goods to my car near the exit.

Martijn Verbree is a Director in the Cyber Security team at KPMG London where he leads a team focused on Identity and Access Management. He wrote this guest blog on Localz on personal title.   Martijn can be reached at Martijn.Verbree@kpmg.co.uk or on Twitter @mverbree

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