There are three things that matter in consumer data collection: location, location, location.
E-ZPasses clock the routes we drive. Metro passes register the subway stations we enter. A.T.M.’s record where and when we get cash. Not to mention the credit and debit card transactions that map our trajectories in comprehensive detail — the stores, restaurants and gas stations we frequent; the hotels and health clubs we patronize.
Each of these represents a kind of knowing trade, a conscious consumer submission to surveillance for the sake of convenience.
But now legislators, regulators, advocacy groups and marketers are squaring off over newer technology: smartphones and mobile apps that can continuously record and share people’s precise movements. At issue is whether consumers are unwittingly acquiescing to pervasive tracking just for the sake of having mobile amenities like calendar, game or weather apps.