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Data privacy: 4 online retailers that are spying on your employees during work hours

January 25, 2024
Posted by Andre Marion
data privacy

“Every move you make, I’ll be watching you.” That 80’s hit from The Police might sound creepy nowadays, but it perfectly depicts how online retailers track “every breath you take.”

How much do you think your employees value their data privacy? The answer is probably not as much as you would hope for the sake of your network’s integrity.

According to the Pew Research Center, only 40% of internet users in the United States are worried about companies selling their personal data or people stealing their identity online. Top that with Americans becoming less knowledgeable about data privacy laws: 72% have little to no understanding. This is up from 63% in 2019

The Target’s Pregnancy Prediction Model

Here’s an example from 2013 that is even more relevant with modern behavior tracking technology, Target, the 6th biggest retailer in the US, sent coupons for baby products to a teenage girl in the Minneapolis area. Her father was furious and complained to the store manager, who apologized. A few days later, the father called back to apologize himself. It turned out that his daughter was indeed pregnant, and Target had figured by tracking her online behavior and learning of her pregnancy before the family did.

This illustrates how retailers can use data to make assumptions about customers and how much information they collect. According to another study by the Pew Research Center, 91% of Americans feel that they have lost control over how their data is collected and used by companies. 

A report by The Atlantic found that online retailers track customers’ every move, from the products they browse to the items they purchase.

Employer-issued devices are being used for more than just work.

A study by IBM found that employees spend an average of 1 hour 12 minutes per week shopping on company-owned computers, a big concern for data privacy. This may seem like a small amount of time, but it adds up quickly, and it’s enough for retailers to collect a significant amount of employee data.

Proofpoint found that 25% of employees use employer-issued devices at home for personal activities like online shopping, gaming, and social media. There’s more: 55% of those users extend device access to family members or trusted friends.

How confident are you that your employees stay safe while surfing and shopping?

Are you actually aware that your staff is likely doing more than work-related tasks on company devices and potentially exposing a lot of personal and sensitive information?

What information is being collected by online retailers?

Online retailers are tracking their user’s every move. Collected data exposes sensitive information and increases vulnerability to phishing attacks.  

So…what types of information are these companies collecting?

Here’s a look at the six biggest online retailers in the US and information they collect* from their users. 


“Hi, Mr. Bezos. I know you’re listening.”

Amazon, the largest online retailer in the US, has a market share of 37.6%. They collect a wide range of data, including:

  • Personal information
  • Purchase history, 
  • Browsing history 
  • Device information C
  • Cookie data
  • Audio and video recordings

Amazon has been in the news several times for its data collection practices. In 2019, it was revealed that Amazon employees were listening to recordings of customers’ conversations with Alexa. In 2021, Amazon was fined $888 million by the European Union for illegally collecting and using personal data from its users.


The second-largest online retailer, with a market share of 6.4%. They collect the following data:

  • Personal information
  • Purchase history 
  • Browsing history
  • Device information 
  • Cookie data

Many have been surprised with Walmart’s use of facial recognition technology in its stores.


Claiming to be a privacy advocate, Apple collects the following from its users:

  • Personal information
  • Purchase history
  • Browsing history
  • Device information
  • Cookie data

And Apple is constantly under scrutiny for its privacy policies, which sometimes seem misleading. 


The giant auction and marketplace seems to have no regard to data privacy, since it collects 28 data points in its Android app, making it the app that collects the most data from its users. Some of the data collected are:

  • Purchase history
  • Browsing history
  • Search history
  • Location data
  • Device information

Ebay has also received a lot of backlash for sharing user data with marketers.

And as for just about all the other online shopping platforms:

This list goes on. If a retailer is selling merchandise, it is tracking shoppers’ behavior. The data collection is massive and, 3 out of 4, share this data with third parties.

Improving data privacy company-wide

Employees should be educated and reminded about how much of their personal information is being collected and shared and what it represents to them and their families. Online privacy is crucial, especially for corporations.

  • Enforce adequate use of company-issued devices.
  • Encourage the use of a VPN to encrypt internet traffic.
  • Practice good cyber hygiene.

How often should data privacy be enforced in a company?

Do not wait until the next cybersecurity training session. Data privacy should be constantly reinforced company-wide through email or other internal media platforms.

  • Avoid the dull tech talk
  • Offer useful and relatable information 
  • Presentation matters! Eye-catching resources generate more engagement
  • Videos and Infographics are great attention grabbers.

Engage your employees year-round and turn them into cybersecurity heroes with content branded for you by Aware Force.

Our latest infographic about online privacy in 2024 includes eye-opening facts about how your personal information is used online, how users feel about that, and useful steps that can limit how much of your information is available to marketers.

We’re standing by to show you truly innovative ways organizations use Aware Force to engage their employees. (And the employees let them know how much it’s appreciated!)

It’s essential to be aware of the risks involved in online shopping and to take steps to protect your data. Stay safe out there! 😊

* Disclaimer: This article reflects the data and privacy situation as of the publication date. Online data collection and privacy practices may change over time. Please verify the current information before using or acting upon any of the content in this article.

Sources: Pew Research Centar, Statista, Atlantic, IBM

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