If you don’t think you are being tracked as you move around Target or Macy’s or even through a local museum, you must not have a smartphone. Many companies are now using beacons –or stationary devices that measure the movements of people carrying smartphones through Bluetooth or Wi-Fi transmissions, to understand the movements of consumers and build marketing campaigns based on consumer location. On September 23, 2015, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) announced that it too will join the beacon bus. Boston’s MBTA will start tracking public-transit riders using these beacons. Specifically, the MBTA will track users through Gimbal Bluetooth Smart beacons, so if you turn your Bluetooth off you should be out of range. Nevertheless, the MBTA said that it will not be collecting or using personally identifiable data, and it will also use a “secure, closed network” to track its riders.

The goal of this new tracking? The MBTA hopes to find ways to improve communications with riders and other MBTA technology. Additionally, and perhaps most concerning, it hopes to find out “how brands can increase engagement and interactions with commuters based on proximity.” This is just a pilot program that the MBTA hopes to roll out for a year before determining its usefulness and the potential for more effective communications.

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Photo of Kathryn Rattigan Kathryn Rattigan

Kathryn Rattigan is a member of the Business Litigation Group and the Data Privacy and Security Team. She concentrates her practice on privacy and security compliance under both state and federal regulations and advising clients on website and mobile app privacy and…

Kathryn Rattigan is a member of the Business Litigation Group and the Data Privacy and Security Team. She concentrates her practice on privacy and security compliance under both state and federal regulations and advising clients on website and mobile app privacy and security compliance. Kathryn helps clients review, revise and implement necessary policies and procedures under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). She also provides clients with the information needed to effectively and efficiently handle potential and confirmed data breaches while providing insight into federal regulations and requirements for notification and an assessment under state breach notification laws. Prior to joining the firm, Kathryn was an associate at Nixon Peabody. She earned her J.D., cum laude, from Roger Williams University School of Law and her B.A., magna cum laude, from Stonehill College. She is admitted to practice law in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Read her full rc.com bio here.