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What the top 10 clothing retailers do with your data

We'll give you a hint, a lot.

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Like many of us, you may have noticed yourself increasingly shopping for clothes online rather than in person. It’s fast, often cheaper with more variety, and (perhaps most importantly) you can do it from inside your cosy bed.

But what are all these clothing retailers doing with the data they collect from you? From every add to your wish list, basket or payment? You might be surprised at how much data the following top 10 clothing retailers collect on you, and how much of that information they sell or share with third parties (hint: knowing your clothing size and inferring your profession and salary from the clothes you buy can be quite valuable to advertisers 👀)

N.B. The following information is all found in each company’s privacy policy- the one you’re asked to ‘consent’ to before you can proceed. So, although you might find some of these practices alarming unfortunately you have legally consented to them. But, don’t worry, most sites have an option for you to opt out! Plus, there’s always Rightly if you’d like to delete any of the data they’ve collected about you.

Amazon

Let’s start with the biggest of them all- Amazon. When it first launched, it earnt most of its profits from selling clothing and to-date 70% of apparel shoppers have bought clothing or footwear from Amazon in the past 12 months.

What data do they collect on you?

Some examples of the data Amazon collects on you include:

  • Name, age, email and location
  • Voice recordings and interactions with Alexa
  • Credit history and information (from other sources that Amazon provides ‘technical, fulfillment, advertising, or other services’)
  • Your interactions with their ‘subsidiaries’
  • Search results and links, including paid listings e.g. sponsored links or information about your internet-connected devices linked with Alexa
  • What you buy and search on Amazon, and your wish and watch lists on Amazon Prime
  • Your downloads and streams on Prime

Do they share your data for advertising purposes?

Yes. This probably won’t come as a shock to many of you as Amazon is notorious for its use of customer information for targeted advertising. Although their privacy policy says they don’t ‘sell’ your data, they do share it.

Who with?

Their privacy policy says they share your data with:

‘advertisers, publishers, social media networks, search engines, ad serving companies, and advertising companies working on their behalf... we do not associate your interactions on unaffiliated sites with information which on its own identifies you, such as name or email address’.

Have they made any big data-related headlines?

Yes. Let’s have a look at some of the news headlines...

In 2020- The BBC found Amazon stores the data of every physical motion detected by its ‘Ring’ doorbells and the exact time they are logged.

In 2019- It was revealed that Matt Hancock handed over NHS data to Amazon for free to use under Alexa device deal.

In 2019- Amazon received complaints after only some of the data received back from SARs was ‘intelligible’.

Ebay

Next up we have another retail giant- ebay. Men and women’s clothing and accessories are some of the most sought after products on ebay, alongside collectibles and ebay had a staggering net revenue of $10.7 billion in 2018.

What data do they collect on you?

Some examples of the data ebay collects on you include:

  • Your name and contact details when you make a new account
  • Your activity when you use ebay services
  • Any information you provide via a web form or participate in online community discussions

Other than the data you give them, ebay also collects your personal information from other sources, in their privacy policy they list ‘other ebay Inc. corporate family members’, credit agencies or bureaus, and other data brokers (companies that specialize in collecting, analysing and sharing data about individuals from public records and private sources).

Do they share your data for advertising purposes?

Yes. Ebay uses the word ‘sell’ when they tell you how to opt out of the sale of your personal information (in tiny writing at the bottom of their privacy policy page may I add). You can opt out here https://www.ebay.com/adchoice/ccpa.

Who with?

Their privacy policy says they share your data with third parties to ‘provide customer service, to provide you with personalized advertising and marketing communications...’

And they sell your data to ‘third parties’ and ‘eBay group companies’.

Have they made any big data-related headlines?

Yes, although it was a pretty long time ago.

In 2014 (pre GDPR)- eBay had a massive data breach, hackers accessed 145 million eBay customers’ names, email addresses and other personal data.

ASOS

Admittedly, scrolling endlessly through ASOS is a well-known guilty pleasure, unsurprising given that at least once a day there are new products added to the site with a huge variety of styles from different brands. This year ASOS was ranked 4th by SimilarWeb for the retailer with the largest user traffic (in the Lifestyle, Fashion and Apparel category).

What data do they collect on you?

Some examples of the data ASOS collects on you include:

  • Dress size
  • Your estimated price range
  • Address and contact details
  • Order history, search history, and the styles you like
  • Social media accounts if you’ve linked to ASOS and ‘how you might share your likes with your friends and how you might influence others with your style’

Do they share your data for advertising purposes?

Yes. They make very clear in their privacy policy that they don’t ‘sell’ your data, but they do share it for advertising and monetary purposes (I know, why the ‘share’ word? It feels pretty close to ‘selling’ when it’s for monetary benefit. Let us know what you think about this- we’d love to hear from you!).

With who?

In order to help ‘provide [their] services’ to you, ASOS says they share your data to the following parties:

‘marketing agencies, advertising partners and website hosts...affiliates who help us reach out to potential new customers or promote our products on their websites...also provide third parties with aggregated and anonymised information and analytics about our customers’.

ASOS does say that before they share your data they will make sure that it doesn’t identify you. Although this is very good practice, and generally ASOS has the most clearly written privacy policy of all these retailers, unfortunately data can easily be de-anonymised nowadays. In 2018 researchers at a DEF CON hacking conference proved this when they acquired the ‘anonymous’ browsing history of 3million Germans and a prominent German Judge.

Have they made any big data-related headlines?

Yes. Although, like ebay this was a very long time ago.

In 2014 (pre GDPR)- Edits’ data analytics tool boosted ASOS’s third-quarter revenues by 37%. Data was used to know what (seemingly very accurately) what products to sell and at what price. We don’t know exactly what data was used to determine this.

Zalando

Zalando is a European clothing retailer based in Berlin that began selling to the UK in 2011. It’s had an impressive and steady increase in revenue and sales over the past 11 years since it launched, reaching a revenue of €6.48 billion in 2019.

What data do they collect on you?

Some examples of the data Zalando collects on you include:

  • Name and contact details
  • Age, gender and region
  • Brands and styles you’re interested in
  • Your social media if you connect to it e.g. sign in using Facebook
  • Any public profile information ‘from external advertising partners’
  • Information about which device you are using

Do they share your data for advertising purposes?

Yes. Although Zalando’s privacy policy is quite hard to understand as they don’t use the words ‘share’ or ‘sell’, it’s definite that they at least share your data.

They state that ‘We...use your data for personalised advertising presented to you in Zalando’s services and on other providers’ websites and apps’.

Who with?

Zalando’s privacy policy says they share your data with ‘advertising partners’. A helpful list of all the cookies they use also shows Google, Facebook, Adobe, Bing, and Econda- all of these companies use marketing cookies on Zalando for advertising purposes.

Have they made any big data-related headlines?

No. But, please note that just because something is or isn’t in the news doesn’t mean a company is necessarily better or worse with data protection: not all data breaches are reported on or even detected.

Boohoo

With over 5 million UK customers, Boohoo is an extremely popular clothing retailer known for being affordable and up-to-date with the latest fashion trends. Less positively, Boohoo has recently made a couple of big news headings (unrelated to data protection) about its worker exploitation in sweatshops and lack of sustainability.

What data do they collect on you?

Some examples of the data Boohoo collects on you include:

  • How and when you use the site
  • Name, gender and contact details
  • Occupation and location
  • Social media if you log in using it
  • Order and search history, and your style interests
  • Browser type and version
  • Weblogs and other communication data

Do they share your data for advertising purposes?

Yes. Again, they don’t ‘sell’ your data, but they do share it. In their privacy policy they say that they use a variety of analytics and targeted advertising tools in order to serve ‘relevant’ ads to you on other websites and apps. For example, if you click to view a yellow pair of shoes on the Boohoo site, then move on to read an online article on a different site next without buying them, an ad for those yellow shoes might pop up on the side of the site you’re now on.

Who with?

Boohoo’s privacy policy says they share your data with ‘business partners...other third parties’.

Have they made any big data-related headlines?

Yes, although it was more a case of disingenuity than the breaking of any laws.

In 2019- Boohoo ‘broke the rules of advertising’ by running ads/notices on their website claiming certain discount offers were time-limited and so pushing customers to make a purchase, when in reality they were not and the timer would just reset.

Missguided

Missguided is another popular Manchester-based clothing retailer. It has always aimed to create ‘killer garms for the dreamers, believers and night lovers’ and after launching in 2013 it accumulated close to £187 million in revenue by 2018.

What data do they collect on you?

Some examples of the data Missguided collects on you include:

  • Browsing data and purchasing history
  • Your IP address and cookie ID
  • Name, email and location
  • Payment details, purchase history

Do they share your data for advertising purposes?

Yes. They also clarify that they don’t ‘sell’ your data, but they do share it for monetary benefit. Missguided say in their privacy policy that they use your data to make ‘the advertising displayed on [it’s site] more relevant to your interests’, and that they may share your data with third parties for the same purpose.

Who with?

Missguided’s privacy policy says they share your data with: Struq, Google and Klarna amongst a list of other third party cookies on their site.

What’s interesting is that they also notify you that these third parties ‘for example, advertising networks’ can also share or sell your data/‘use cookies’ for purposes that Missguided has ‘no control’.

Have they made any big data-related headlines?

No.

H&M

In 2018 H&M was the web’s most popular fashion and clothing brand, and today it still ranks on YouGov highly, as the world's 13th most popular fashion and clothing brand. It targets mainly young women and has over 5,000 stores worldwide.

What data do they collect on you?

Some examples of the data H&M collects on you include:

  • Name, address and contact details
  • IP address
  • Gender, age and location
  • Interests

Do they share your data for advertising purposes?

No. Hurray! Their privacy policy is well written and states clearly that H&M ‘never pass on, sell or swap your data for marketing purposes to third parties outside the H&M group’. How refreshing- thank you H&M!

Who with?

H&M only ever shares your data within the H&M group, for example, their ‘media agencies and technical suppliers for distribution of physical and digital direct marketing’.

Have they made any big data-related headlines?

Yes, and it perhaps explains why H&M don’t sell or share your data with third parties.

In 2019- Christopher Wylie, one of the people who exposed Cambridge Analytica’s misuse of data, was hired by H&M.

Zara

Last year in 2019 Zara made an impressive revenue of €19.56 billion and is a well known fashion brand having 2,250 stores worldwide. It’s well-known for its affordable high-end looking products, though it did make headlines a couple of years ago for ripping off individual designers and artists.

What data do they collect on you?

Some examples of the data Zara collects on you include:

  • Name and email
  • Language and country
  • Payment details and your orders and returns
  • Browsing data
  • Tastes and preferences.

Do they share your data for advertising purposes?

Yes. They state in their privacy policy that they share your data with advertisers.

Who with?

Zara’s privacy policy says they share your data with ‘advertising and marketing related partners and service providers’.

Have they made any big data-related headlines?

No.

Nike

If you’re ever in need of some new running shoes or maybe even some lock-down joggers- Nike might come to mind as the place to go. Since 2019 Nike has held the largest market share of the global apparel market and currently Nike’s revenues top $39 billion.

What data do they collect on you?

You might be surprised at the astonishing amount of data Nike can get a hold of on it’s customers, just have a look at some of these examples:

  • Weight, height, and body measurements (like estimated stride and shoe/foot measurements or apparel size)
  • Name, hometown, contact details and age
  • Purchase history and payment details
  • Fitness activity data (provided by you or generated by the platform like time, duration, GPS, heart rate, distance, calorie count, pace)
  • Interests and preferences.

Do they share your data for advertising purposes?

Yes. Nike shares your personal data ‘for example [for] advertising’ but they specify that they don’t ‘sell’ your data.

Who with?

Nike says they share your data with ‘service providers processing personal data for business purposes on Nike’s behalf’, including as we said before, advertisers.

Have they made any big data-related headlines?

Yes.

In 2019- Forbes wrote, in a positive way, that Nike is using data analytics to personalise the consumer experience e.g. to measure the full shape of both feet. Nike also acquired leading data analytics company Zodiac.

Shein

Shein is an internationally focused brand based in New South Wales, Australia. It offers a huge range of women’s clothing at a very affordable price. It’s known by many to be a bit hit-or-miss regarding it’s quality, but it’s still increasing in its popularity worldwide.

What data do they collect on you?

Some examples of the data Shein collects on you include:

  • Height and weight
  • Name, address and contact details
  • Browser type and version
  • Whether you access the site on your phone
  • Payment details

Do they share your data for advertising purposes?

Yes. Shein shares your personal information ‘with third parties to market their products or services to you’. They also state that they don’t ‘sell’ your data.

Who with?

Shein’s privacy policy says they share your data with ‘advertising partners’ and Shein specifies that they use Google Ads.

Have they made any big data-related headlines?

Yes. Shein suffered a massive data breach not that long ago that still follows them, in public opinion, to this day.

In 2018- Shein announced 6.4 millions customers’ encrypted password details and email addresses were stolen by malware.

If you want to know for sure what data a clothing retailer holds on you… send a SAR!

It’s within your rights to send a SAR (Subject Access Request) to any company in order to see what personal data they hold on you.

You can either do this by yourself or by using Rightly! Click here if you’d like to send SARs to lots of clothing retailers at once, or if you’d like a bit more information on SARs you can see our other blog about it.

By law, companies have to reply to your request within 30 days, and you can then even choose to delete it. You might find the data you get back pretty insightful!

Final thoughts

Ebay is the only retailer that ‘sells’ your data, and H&M is the only retailer that doesn’t ‘sell’ or ‘share’ your personal data. Everyone else ‘shares’ your data for various reasons that include monetary benefit.

We hope this article has given you a better understanding of what some of the top clothing retailers do with your data, and as always- if you have any questions or thoughts on this topic get in touch- we’d love to hear from you!

Before you go

To represent just how difficult it can be for you to see if someone is ‘looking’ at your personal information, we decided to create a brainteaser for you.

This puzzle features icons representing your ID, bank cards, social media accounts and other forms of personal data. Can you spot the hidden pair of eyes?

Rightly.co.uk puzzle.jpg

Stuck? To see the answer, scroll down below our logo.

Rightly.co.uk puzzle reveal.jpg