A “Beacon” On Privacy Concerns

Consumer fears about beacons and privacy will evaporate as beacons become part of everyday life, panelists said at the M1 Summit conference in San Francisco on Thursday (Nov. 13), according to VentureBeat.

“Anytime a technology — I don’t want to say tracks, but tries to learn more about people, people get worried about privacy,” said Jeremy Ozen, CEO of ad-serving platform Vistar Media. But some media coverage of beacons, including an Oct. 6 BuzzFeed story about an advertising company that installed 5,000 beacons in phone booths around New York City, have created overblown fears, he argued.

“The BuzzFeed article about the phone kiosks in New York City didn’t really understand how beacons work,” Ozen said. Beacons don’t just track people’s phones at random, he said. “You have to have an app. You have to opt in,” Ozen added, and pointed out that consumers have much more control over when a beacon lets someone push a notification to their phone than they do when a cookie in your browser enables an advertiser to show them an ad based on their browsing habits.

“The article was inflammatory,” said Alex Bell, CEO of proximity marketing startup Signal 360. He compared the beacon uproar — which eventually caused the 5,000 New York City beacons to be removed — to that over mobile payments. They too originally raised security and privacy concerns until consumers began to realize the convenience of the technology. “I think the way you get around that is to focus on the benefits beacons have for consumers,” Bell said.


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