At the time, Nordstrom insisted that the tracking program was supposed to track customers in the aggregate: not necessarily remembering that you, personally, browsed bras and cookware and then took off, but looking at customers as anonymous dots that come and go. If a large number of customers swarmed on a certain part of the store and then left abruptly, that could help with staffing decisions. In theory.
While Apple’s change pleases privacy fans like Sen. Al Franken (D-Minnesota), it’s not entirely altruistic. Apple wants retailers to check out its own tracking system for customers, called iBeacon, which uses small, low-energy Bluetooth transmitters that alert your phone when you pass by them. Users who have a store’s app installed can receive special alerts or coupons when they walk past a beacon, but only if they have the store’s app installed.