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The growing importance of data destruction in retail


In 1946, Brooklyn bank owner John Biggins debuted a product that allowed customers who had accounts open at his bank to purchase goods by just using a card, according to CreditCards.com. This idea, known as the Charg-It card, served as a precursor to the common practice of using credit cards in retail stores today.

What's startling to know is that, nearly 50 years earlier, the first case of ID theft via credit card was reported. A man had thrown an account card he no longer wanted in the trash and someone else had fished it out. Over a century later, much has changed. However, the principle idea of thieving someone's classified data through thrown-away technology is still alive and relevant.

The largest difference is simply the amount of consumer data that retailers commonly store. That charge card spawned a multitude of products, but the rapid pace of technology and industry development has made it so that credit card data is far from the only confidential material stored on retail hardware.

Amazon Go and the retail store of the future
Amazon, the company long known as an online retail giant, shocked the tech world in 2016 with the announcement of an actual brick-and-mortar store. The location, called Amazon Go, finally opened to the public in early 2018. However, this store is not the same as its predecessors. There are no cash registers or cashiers. Customers use the Amazon Go app to gain entrance, then simply grab whatever they want and leave.

The technology that enables this new streamlined shopping experience is called Just Walk Out and not much is known about it, other than it uses computer vision, AI, sensors and pre-existing consumer data to craft a 21st century retail experience. This is far more than just simply storing credit card data on point-of-sale terminals.

An IoT-enabled shopping experience
A large part of what makes stores like Amazon Go possible involves the internet of things. Consumers need a smartphone app to enter the store. This software syncs up with their Amazon accounts, allowing the company to charge for whatever goods are selected.

However, this is not the only way that IoT is impacting the retail space. Consumers are more connected to e-commerce than ever before through tablets, smartphones and other mobile computing hardware. This allows them to browse deals in-store, looking for the best prices on products. As an Intel white paper pointed out, actual locations are now also places of entertainment and home to IoT-enabled displays, allowing customers to see best how certain products would work before committing to buy.

The increasing amount of personal information stored at retail locations
This increased connection has lead to retailers possessing a higher amount of personal information. In the past, debit and credit cards, as well as checks, were the most confidential consumer documents a retail company owned. Now, passwords, email addresses, physical addresses and other information is usually stored, since the vast majority of physical retailers also have online stores.

In addition, many retail locations contain Wi-Fi and network-enabled promotions that can require a connection to the customer's smartphone. This grants a retailer even more consumer data access. The vast amount of confidential data now available within retail stores and their servers has made these locations an increased target for cyberattack and identity theft.

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