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Steve Thomas Explores Privacy, Legal Concerns of Interactive Physical Retail in Latest DCEO Article

In his latest article published in DCEO magazine, MCS shareholder Steve Thomas explores a prototype grocery concept called Sam’s Club Now in which the grocery king is rolling out an increasingly automated retail experience and in the process pushing the boundaries of privacy obligations associated with data collection.

In “Beyond Big Brother” in the January edition of DCEO, Thomas describes Walmart’s proprietary “Scan & Go” app technology in use at the Old East Dallas store, which offers shoppers a highly automated shopping experience.

With numerous retailers following the trend, Thomas notes that the success of such “interactive physical retail” stores hinges on companies’ ability to leverage personal shopping data. That places the trend on a collision course with public concern about privacy and increasing regulation over how such personal information is obtained, stored, employed and shared.

Writes Thomas: Information captured by retailers, both online and in stores, often finds its way into the treasure troves of data brokers, allowing them to develop and sell incredibly detailed consumer dossiers that go far beyond demographics to include behavioral quirks, biases, religious beliefs, purchasing patterns, and a host of other personal details.

Legislators and regulators recognize the problem, and have been scrambling to catch up, hurriedly knitting a patchwork of sector-specific laws with little coordination among jurisdictions.

There’s no avoiding big data. As with the historical appearances of electricity and the internet, its development is forcing companies to assess its impact and innovate accordingly or risk being left behind.

Read the entire article here.