Shopper Surveillance: The Mall is Tracking You
During the upcoming holiday season, two U.S. malls will track the unique identifiers of shoppers' cell phones, in order to track the movement of shoppers. The Promenade Temecula in southern California and Short Pump Town Center in Richmond Virginia will use a UK company called Footpath Technology to track shoppers' movements.
The company claims that there are no privacy implications, because no personal data is collected; the name and phone number of each individual is not collected or tracked back in the companies records, only the unique identifier of the phone is collected and stored. The company uses each phone's unique identifier to track the movement of individuals through the mall, and then aggregates and analyzes those data to show the movement of shoppers within a few feet.
Using antennas placed throughout the mall, the surveillance technology can tell which products people paused to look at, and shop owners can then go back and determine how well these products sold.
The malls in question are at least notifying shoppers (using small, printed signs) but there doesn't appear to be an opt-out mechanism.
The claim that there is no threat to privacy is absurd. Tracking the unique identifier of my phone as I walk into the Gap makes it simple to connect my purchase to that identifier at that particular time. In addition, asking a customer to "like" your company on Facebook in exchange for a discount would also break this thin veil of anonymity.