Your cell phone signal won't be tracked at stores -- for now

By on November 29, 2011, 6:30 PM

The holidays have been spoiled for two malls that planned to electronically track customers. The Promenade Temecula in California and Short Pump Town Center in Virginia announced plans last week to implement "FootPath" technology, which uses shoppers' cell phone signals to map their traffic throughout the shopping centers. Privacy advocates immediately cried foul and US Senator Charles Schumer questioned the rollout during a press conference this Sunday.

"A shopper's personal cell phone should not be used by a third party as a tracking device by retailers who are seeking to determine holiday shopping patterns," Schumer said. "Personal cell phones are just that -- personal. If retailers want to tap into your phone to see what your shopping patterns are, they can ask you for your permission to do so," he continued, implying that the tracking experiment should only be permissible if customers were given the chance to opt-in.

The malls originally wanted to introduce the tracking system under an opt-out only policy that would have required customers to disable their handsets if they didn't want to be tracked. Schumer sent letters to the FTC and the CEO of Path Intelligence (the firm behind FootPath), calling the tracking initiative "simply unreasonable." He noted further that shoppers shouldn't be forced to choose between having contact with their loved ones and safeguarding their privacy.

In light of that resistance, Forest City Commercial Management (which operates both malls) has temporarily suspended trials of the technology until it can address Senator Schumer's concerns. FootPath is already present in several establishments across Europe and Australia and Forest City's malls are essentially serving as a test platform for a US rollout. Other stores including J.C. Penny and Home Depot are reportedly considering implementing the technology.




User Comments: 15

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ramonsterns said:

Next they'll want to read your emails to determine trending patterns. What could possibly go wrong?

Burty117 Burty117, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

Or they'll start monitoring how many times you go to the toilet to monitor your eating habits to give you relavent adverts personalised to your needs...

Guardian31756 said:

Lets just pray that Path Intelligence has no association with Google !

It's strange but I see a connection between the update regarding Google Maps on Android and this, anyone else ?

Guest said:

if i was a mall owner i would track it and not saying anything. no laws broken, no identifying features, just plain old traffic. If you care about this, then you better get mad at your city where you live when they track traffic usage of certain streets.

Guest said:

Tracking is good for business; feed the sheep with what it wants and there will be more money for the one who sells the food ;)

GImme tracking!

ramonsterns said:

Guest said:

if i was a mall owner i would track it and not saying anything. no laws broken, no identifying features, just plain old traffic. If you care about this, then you better get mad at your city where you live when they track traffic usage of certain streets.

My car doesn't contain personal information which could or could not be accessed without my consent to someone I do not know, much less trust.

Guest said:

Tracking is good for business; feed the sheep with what it wants and there will be more money for the one who sells the food

GImme tracking!

You seem to be under the wrong impression that all of us are sheep.

Mindwraith said:

why do businesses think they need all this information to provide services to us?

if i want to buy a sandwich, i'll buy a damn sandwich. i dont need them to research my buying patterns to determine when im most likely to want a sandwich...

Guest said:

I don't usually carry a cell phone, so I guess I would be an Irregularity in the tracking. Some phantom purchased something from a vendor but we don't know how he/she got in the store.

Burty117 Burty117, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

Guest said:

I don't usually carry a cell phone, so I guess I would be an Irregularity in the tracking. Some phantom purchased something from a vendor but we don't know how he/she got in the store.

lol! and the security guard would follow you around making sure your not a criminal...

MilwaukeeMike said:

You seem to be under the wrong impression that all of us are sheep.

Yes, exactly. You are a sheep. Just like every other poster in this story. Consider the following...

1) The story on CNN points out that the tracking is done anonymously (should have mentioned that, TS)

2) Your face is already on a security camera.

3) Politicians LOVE things like this because they can oppose something that appears to violate a civil right without any downside. Now Schumer can campaign on how he 'protected' us.

4) Schumer described the anonymous tracking as 'tapping into your cell phone'. On the truth-o-meter that cruises right past 'exaggeration' and into 'blatent lie'.

So yes... you're a sheep. Think for your self, and use some common sense. The store doesn't care about you or your 'personal information' and neither does the senator. He just wants the opportunity to 'defend' us so it can be in a commercial when campaign time rolls around.

TorturedChaos, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

I don't like the idea of being tracked - even anonymously. First time I heard about "Footpath" it gave me the creeps.

And yes your face is on security footage - but its a hell of a lot more work for someone to track me through the mall on security footage then it is for a device to record my phone's ID number. Have you ever tried to watch security footage? Most camera's people use you could barely get a facial recognition, more likely to be able to tell its a "White male" and that's about it.

ramonsterns said:

milwaukeemike said:

So yes... you're a sheep.

There's a difference between going around knowing you're being monitored and not liking it, and going around and being monitored without you ever knowing it.

Your definition of not being a sheep would have to include me going everyone in a mask and being completely disconnected from my friends and family.

MilwaukeeMike said:

Tortured, if it's anonymous, then nothing would be recording your phone's ID.

I would imagine though that if security saw on a camera a person they knew to be a shoplifter, they could mark their dot on whatever Footpath map they have and they could watch that dot walk around the store and they'd be able to know easily which camera to use to watch that person.

In practice it's no different than what they do today, which is have someone follow you around in person.

Guest said:

your car gives more personal info that your phone does at the mall... your car has a license plate which can be used to track you by anyone.

all they are tracking is a signal, nothing more. They don't know your number, your name, nothing. Just a signal.

ramonsterns said:

milwaukeemike said:

In practice it's no different than what they do today, which is have someone follow you around in person.

I'd rather have someone follow me around.

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