Malls Planning to Track Smartphones During Black Friday? | WebProNews
Privacy can be a touchy subject. People are often strongly divided when it comes to tracking and monitoring your physical and electronic whereabouts. New ways to track people are being invented every year, and this is no exception. For the first time that we’re aware of, people are being tracked at the mall. Some people would willingly opt-in to such a program, but this one requires 1) knowledge that it’s going on, and 2) an opt-out procedure that then makes you unavailable to receive phone calls or text messages. It will be interesting to see if there are any statistics about a drop in overall traffic and spending in that mall due to people shopping elsewhere.
Here’s the full story from WebProNews.com:
According to a report appearing in CNNMoney:
Starting on Black Friday and running through New Year’s Day, two U.S. malls — Promenade Temecula in southern California and Short Pump Town Center in Richmond, Va. — will track guests’ movements by monitoring the signals from their cell phones.
The report indicates the data is anonymous, but these malls will be able to track users, or their devices, anyway, from store to store.
Is this a good thing? Should retail outlets be able to monitor the movements of people based on their smartphone-generated location data? Or should something like this have to have legal approval beforehand? Apparently, there are goals associated with the tracking, and, of course, they are marketing related:
The goal is for stores to answer questions like: How many Nordstrom shoppers also stop at Starbucks? How long do most customers linger in Victoria’s Secret? Are there unpopular spots in the mall that aren’t being visited?
While both malls say personal data is not being tracked, how hard is it to match a phone signal up with its user? For instance, “we have a potential shopper who just left the store next to ours. Let’s put our best foot forward at the storefront and try to attract those who are passing by.” Apparently, however, that is not the intention of this tracking project:
“We won’t be looking at singular shoppers,” said Stephanie Shriver-Engdahl, vice president of digital strategy for Forest City. “The system monitors patterns of movement. We can see, like migrating birds, where people are going to.”
CNN also documents the tracking service being used by the malls in question:
The tracking system, called FootPath Technology, works through a series of antennas positioned throughout the shopping center that capture the unique identification number assigned to each phone (similar to a computer’s IP address), and tracks its movement throughout the stores.
Consumers who don’t want to be followed have one method of opting out of the tracking service: turn their phone off.
This leads to a couple of questions: Would you shop at a mall that tracked users based on mobile data? Do these tracking services violate privacy, even if no personal data is being collected? Shouldn’t there be another way besides powering down your device to opt out of this tracking service?