Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on the day's biggest business stories

Subscribe to Axios Closer for insights into the day’s business news and trends and why they matter

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Stay on top of the latest market trends

Subscribe to Axios Markets for the latest market trends and economic insights. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sports news worthy of your time

Binge on the stats and stories that drive the sports world with Axios Sports. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tech news worthy of your time

Get our smart take on technology from the Valley and D.C. with Axios Login. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Get the inside stories

Get an insider's guide to the new White House with Axios Sneak Peek. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Denver news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Des Moines news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Twin Cities news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Tampa Bay news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Charlotte news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Nashville news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Nashville newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Columbus news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Columbus newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Dallas news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Dallas newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sign up for Axios NW Arkansas

Stay up-to-date on the most important and interesting stories affecting NW Arkansas, authored by local reporters

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

A shopper browses the aisles of an Amazon Go store. Photo: Stephen Brashear/Getty Images

In crafting new privacy laws to cover tech giants' vast appetite for user data, lawmakers are finding that they're having to draw up new rules for the old-fashioned brick-and-mortar world, too.

Why it matters: Consumer data is now the most valuable asset for nearly all companies — not just digital ones. Most large businesses operate simultaneously in both realms, and the boundaries between data's use online and offline have blurred.

The big picture: Consumers understand that Google and Facebook track them, but the same kind of profiling increasingly happens in the physical world — from facial recognition at Taylor Swift concerts to Amazon's cashier-less convenience store. Any new privacy law will have to reckon with questions about transparency and consumer choice not only in apps and on websites but as we walk through stores and drive down streets. 

By the numbers: Companies across the economy gather data on consumers in the physical world for a wide range of business purposes.

  • Euclid, which tracks customers who go to physical stores by connecting with their smartphones, announced this summer that its database had crossed the 120 million active devices mark.
  • Over the next 3 years, Amazon is considering building as many as 3,000 of its Amazon Go convenience stores, which use hundreds of cameras to let customers take items off the shelf and buy them without ever interacting with a cashier, per Bloomberg. (The company reportedly doesn't use facial recognition software to run the stores.)
  • Relentless Recovery, a company featured in a Washington Post article earlier this year, reportedly used scanner technology to read 28 million license plates in 2017 as it looked for vehicles to repossess.

Offline data collection can then be merged with online targeting — and nowhere is this more evident than with location data.

  • “It’s not a coincidence that when you’re in Walmart they’re showing you a Dove ad," said Serge Matta, the president of location tracking firm GroundTruth, at an Axios event earlier this year.
  • “A lot of people, admittedly so, will think this is a bit creepy," he said later.

Why you'll hear about this again: Federal lawmakers are under pressure to write a national privacy law, spurred on by data scandals at Facebook and Google.

  • Industry also hopes that Congress will supersede a new California privacy law before it goes into effect in 2020. Other states are expected to write their own rules, too.

Lawmakers said in recent weeks that they were still figuring out how to make sure their work could apply outside the bounds of the web:

  • Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kansas) said that examples of offline data collection show this is a "broader issue than the big tech companies that are so at the forefront of the conversation" and a reminder of "how difficult it is for us to craft legislation that covers all circumstances."
  • "I’ve been asking my staff, what happens if you are in a brick-and-mortar location, but the data collection is through devices and on the cloud — is that online data collection?" Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) told reporters last week while introducing his own privacy bill. "And I’m just going to be blunt and say I’m not really sure yet who this would apply to and who not."

One solution would be to leave the details to the Federal Trade Commission or another agency — but some lawmakers will likely want Congress to offer regulators more guidance.

Harlan Yu, the Executive Director of Upturn who has studied the use of body-worn cameras, said that it is safe to assume that data collection in the brick-and-mortar world "is just going to grow larger over the coming years."

  • "Cameras are used for everything now," said Michael Suswal, the COO and co-founder of Standard Cognition, which builds technology that lets consumers buy items in a store and check out without dealing with a person. "Video is the new data.”
  • Suswal said regulations were a good thing for tech companies but urged lawmakers to make sure they understood the technology they were dealing with. (Standard Cognition says its technology doesn't link individual shoppers with their identities.)

The bottom line: "To the extent that these problems are difficult to address online, it’s even more difficult to address privacy issues offline," said Yu.

Go deeper

1 hour ago - World

Former spy Steele defends controversial Trump Russia dossier

Former U.K. intelligence officer Christopher Steele arrives at the High Court in London in July 2020. Photo: Tolga Akmen/AFP via Getty Images

The author of the "Steele Dossier," containing unverified claims about former President Trump told ABC News he stands by his controversial report, according to excerpts from an upcoming documentary published Sunday.

Why it matters: Former U.K. intelligence officer Christopher Steele's dossier was used as part of former special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into the Trump campaign's alleged links to Russia's government.

Ina Fried, author of Login
5 hours ago - Technology

Intel CEO sees making own chips as a matter of national security

Pat Gelsinger. Photo: Axios on HBO

Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger is putting the pressure on the U.S. government to help subsidize chip manufacturing, insisting the current reliance on plants in Taiwan and Korea as "geopolitically unstable."

Why it matters: There is bipartisan support for funding the domestic semiconductor industry, but Congress has yet to sign the check. The Senate has passed the CHIPS Act that includes $52 billion in semiconductor investment, but it has yet to pass the House.

Updated 5 hours ago - World

17 U.S. and Canadian missionaries kidnapped in Haiti

Haitian soldiers guard the public prosecutor's office in Port-au-Prince this month. Photo: Richard Pierrin/AFP via Getty Images

Children are among a group of 17 missionaries kidnapped in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, per a statement from Christian Aid Ministries Sunday.

The latest: "The group of 16 U.S citizens and one Canadian citizen includes five men, seven women, and five children," the Ohio-based group said. Haitian police inspector Frantz Champagne on Sunday identified the 400 Mawozo gang as the group responsible, in a statement to AP.