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The Dark (and not-so-dark) Side of Mobile Data

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For information consumers, constant communicators and internet junkies everywhere, unlimited mobile data is a pass to unlimited playtime. It’s like unlimited crack for the addict. For data scientists, analysts and marketers, the words ‘unlimited mobile data’ spark raised eyebrows. Unlimited data, by its very nature, makes for limitless possibilities. How its use will pan out is, of course, a different story.

One way companies such as Target and Macy’s use smartphone data is movement tracking. When a customer arrives, a camera gets a shot of their face or license plate, then the retailer tracks where they go in the store through WiFi. Although these stores aren’t malicious, and are ostensibly doing this to build user profiles and personalize marketing, it seems ominous: 80% of shoppers feel in-store tracking is unacceptable; 68.5% are concerned their data will not be kept safe, and 67% say “tracking feels like spying.”

This is the grey area of mobile data usage, because many people might not be okay with tracking, but they might be happy to take advantage of a special discount the store offers as a result of tracking. Customers with Wal-Mart’s app, which uses geolocation tracking, spend nearly 40% more per month. This benefits Wal-Mart, …

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