The Scoop on Beacons & Privacy

beacons and privacy

Location based services, specifically beacons, have raised some privacy concerns recently. Due to recent hacking and tracking controversies,  sharing their location doesn’t appeal to all consumers — though most are willing to share their location in return for discounts, coupons or other rewards. When it comes to using beacons for marketing campaigns, there are a few key points for consumers and marketers to understand in order to calm any privacy concerns.

First, beacons work only when a user has installed something – either an app or a Passbook pass. If neither of these are installed, beacons will not communicate with your phone.

Second, bluetooth needs to be turned on in order for beacons to work. If bluetooth is disabled, then beacons are unable to transmit any messages. 

Third, beacons themselves are only one-way transmitters. In other words, they only send out information but cannot see or collect information from a user’s phone. However, the app they communicate with have their own Terms of Service when it comes to viewing and collecting data.

When it comes to privacy, consumers can opt out. As we mentioned, the first option is to simply keep the bluetooth setting turned off. The other option, with iOS devices, is to opt out of location services. When you download an app, a notification will ask permission to share your location with an app. Users can select no, or go to Settings, Privacy and turn all Location Services off, or select which apps can see their location.

For app developers, there are a few things to calm privacy fears. Only ask for location from users when needed – and be clear how you intend to use this information. For example, only send a notification asking for location when a user searches for a store location, or let them know you are requesting their location so you can share promotions and coupons. Make sure that your Terms of Service are up to date to reflect how you’re using location based services and user data.

For more on beacons, check out some myths we uncovered.