Sen. Charles Schumer says federal authorities should regulate the practice of retailers using shoppers' smartphones to track their movement through a store.
Schumer, D-N.Y., said Sunday that the Federal Trade Commission should require that stores let shoppers opt out of being tracked.
Several major retailers, like Family Dollar, American Apparel, Swatch, and United Colors of Benetton, use technology that allows them to track customers' movements through their stores by following Wi-Fi signals from smartphones, allowing a retailer to learn in what part of the store they spent time in, what products they've considered buying, and how long they've spent looking at those products.
Retailers can then combine the data they've collected with data found online, creating an incredibly detailed profile of each shopper.
While shopping at the Family Dollar in Mattydale, Louise McGrew says she should have a say.
"It should be a customer's choice whether you want them to watch you or not. It's uncomfortable when they're watching your every move," says McGrew.
While none of the stores in Armory Square are using the technology, many shoppers like Andrea Reeves, are still uncomfortable with the idea of being tracked especially without their knowledge.
"I think I would like to have the option to opt out if it's an ongoing thing. I think it's an invasion of privacy," says Reeves.
As someone who works in marketing, Valerie Rados understands the motivation but would still like the opportunity to give her consent.
"I get it, but as a person with a cell phone, I don't think I'd like to be stalked in the stores I'm shopping at without knowing about it," says Rados.
Emanuel Jenkins says it's an inaccurate way to monitor behavior.
"I want them to ask me what I like instead of just assuming because I could be lost in the store and they could not know I'm looking for something else and I'm lost," says Jenkins.
Schumer said that shoppers who don't want to be tracked must turn of their phones' Wi-Fi or leave the devices at home.
He called cellphone tracking "intrusive and unsettling."
Schumer said at a Manhattan news conference that the FTC should step in and require an "opt-out" provision.
He said the tracking program is a deceptive trade practice because shoppers don't know they are being tracked.
"If stores are going to track you footstep by footstep, you should be alerted in no uncertain terms, and be given the opportunity to decline. Personal cell phones are just that - personal. They shouldn't be used as some James Bond-like tracking device without the shopper's knowledge," Schumer said in a media release.
(Associated Press contributed to this story.)