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  1. California's new privacy law has spurred a torrent of online notices. But the law is also forcing changes offline, in traditional stores. To anyone with eyes in their kneecaps, the notice outside gadget retailer B8ta’s glossy store next to San Francisco’s new NBA arena is obvious. “We care about your privacy,” the small plaque proclaims, offering a web address and QR code. Anyone curious and limber enough to bend down and follow these pointers is taken to the retailer’s online privacy policy, which discloses that stepping inside the store puts you in range of technology that automatically collects personal information. That includes “smartphone detectors” and Wi-Fi routers that note the location and unique identifiers of your phone, and cameras equipped with software that estimates your age and gender. B8ta added the signage to its six California stores and expanded its online privacy policy late last year as it prepared to comply with a new state law that took effect this month called the California Consumer Privacy Act. The law requires businesses to disclose what personal information they collect from consumers at or before the time it is collected. It gives state residents the right to request data collected about them be deleted and to forbid a business from selling it. CCPA’s most visible effect has been a plague of website popups on California residents. But the law also applies to offline data collection. B8ta’s new signs and disclosures show how the CCPA might shed more light on the way brick-and-mortar businesses use Wi-Fi routers and other in-store sensors to try to match the customer analytics and tracking of online retailers and ad networks. California legislators rushed to pass CCPA in 2018 to head off a stricter ballot initiative on privacy whose sponsors had collected more than 600,000 signatures. In the process, a provision allowing citizens to sue for violations was removed, leaving the state attorney general as the sole enforcer. But CCPA is in some ways broader than GDPR, the influential European Union privacy law that came into force in 2018. California’s law defines personal information more liberally, to include data about a household, which GDPR does not, for example. CCPA also requires companies to disclose details of how they sell personal data and allow consumers to opt out of any sales, using a broad definition of “sell” that includes trading data for anything of value. Mary Stone Ross, a lawyer and former CIA analyst who coauthored the initiative that led to CCPA, says it was partly inspired by research on use of in-store tracking by retailers. “It was very clear that in order for the CCPA to be effective, it had to cover all collection of all information, not just online collection,” she says. The law that took effect January 1 says businesses must “inform” consumers that they are collecting personal information “at or before the point of collection.” The attorney general’s draft regulations, due to be finalized in time for enforcement to begin in July, suggests physical premises distribute paper notices or display “prominent signage” with a web link. B8ta declined to explain how it reasoned that knee-high notices might inform customers or count as “prominent.” The company’s stores, which resemble Apple stores, feature quirky consumer gadgets such as an e-ink typewriter alongside products from names like Asus and Google. The retailer’s pitch to lure new partners cites its stores’ ability to provide live data on how customers engage or linger near products on display. Other companies collecting data from customers in stores have taken different approaches to disclosure. One patron of Brazilian steakhouse Fogo De Chão received a printed CCPA notice when he visited the chain’s San Francisco restaurant in early January. It informed him that the company collects personal information during purchases and reservations, uses security cameras, and mentions the restaurant’s guest Wi-Fi. That, too, according to the company’s updated online policy, collects personal information. When department store Macy’s updated its privacy policy to comply with CCPA, it added a surprising disclosure—facial recognition may be used on customers for “security and fraud detection purposes.” The company also said that it uses Wi-Fi routers to track where shoppers linger and beacons that “map nearby Bluetooth-enabled devices, much in the same way radar works,” and sells consumer data, including device and network information. Inside the Macy’s store in San Francisco’s Union Square this week, the cameras—potentially using facial recognition—were obvious, but no privacy notices were visible, even at knee level. The company did not respond to multiple requests for comment before publication. After this article was published, Macy's said in a statement, "Macy’s is committed to our customers’ privacy. We are taking the steps necessary to meet the new CCPA privacy law." California’s new privacy regime could help reveal how use of facial recognition is spreading in stores and other semipublic places as the technology becomes more accessible. Lowe’s says it previously tested the technology in three stores, but ultimately decided not to use it. Peter Trepp, CEO of facial recognition provider FaceFirst, declined to say whether he is telling retail customers to post notices in California informing shoppers their faces might be analyzed. The company claims to work with airports, sports teams, and Fortune 500 retailers, who use the software to alert staff when shoplifters known to a store return. source
  2. The first is opening Manchester today Beginning today, Amazon will open 10 brick and mortar stores in locations throughout the UK as part of a scheme which it claims will help small businesses combine online and in-person sales. The new "Clicks and Mortar" stores will sell goods like homeware, health and beauty products, food and drink, and electronics. They will also act as a location for customers to see and try out products from online-only brands like Swifty Scooters. The first store will open in Manchester today, with openings across the rest of the UK to follow. Amazon says the pilot scheme will run for one year to test the viability of the concept. Amazon has had a mixed history with brick and mortar stores. Its automated supermarket chain, Amazon Go, has 12 branches in US cities and has been winning fans despite criticism that the cashless system is discriminatory and that it is harmful to local employment prospects. Then there are Amazon Books stores, 17 of which have opened near universities. The company has previously announced plans to expand the bookstores to more locations. Not all its physical retail schemes have been so successful, however. The pop-up kiosks it trialed at 87 locations in the U.S. were shut down earlier this year, signaling the trial wasn't as lucrative as it hoped for. Now, Amazon is trying the pop-up approach again, but this time it will try a new approach of highlighting previously online-only products and companies which stand to benefit from in-person sales. Amazon claims the new scheme will help small businesses by training apprentice workers and offering digital training events. For this purpose, it has set aside one million pounds for training schemes for 150 full-time apprentices to specialize in productivity and online sales. For small businesses which currently sell well online but would benefit from customers interacting with their products in person, this could indeed be a help. But ultimately the beneficiary of the plans will be Amazon itself, which will have a small but significant physical presence in the UK. For the long-term growth of the company, having brick and mortar stores will allow customers to browse for products they wouldn't necessarily search online, not to mention the benefits of impulse buys. And perhaps most valuable of all, it could raise Amazon's reputation as it seeks to to give back to the high street rather than destroy it. Source
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