Shopping Malls to Track Your Movements via Cell Phones for Holliday Shopping Season

…and if you think it’s going to stop there, you’re wrong.

CNN Money is reporting that at least two shopping malls are planning to track customers’ locations throughout the complex from Black Friday through New Year’s Day.

spy kids mall“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.

While the data that's collected is anonymous, it can follow shoppers' paths from store to store.

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?”

The system, dubbed FootPath Technology, works by collecting visitors’ cell phone SID (a unique identification number assigned to each phone) using antennas positioned around the mall. This makes the data harvested anything but anonymous. Home Depot and JC Penney are also in discussions with FootPath about the implementation of this tracking service.

FootPath describes their technology thusly:

“The units measure signals from the consumers' mobile phones using unique technology that can locate a consumer's position to within a few metres. These units feed this data (24 hours a day 7 days a week) to a processing centre, where the data is audited and sophisticated statistical analysis is applied to create continuously updated information on the flow of shoppers throughout the centre. At any time the shopping centre management can access the data via PI's secure web-based reporting system.”

“Secure web-based reporting system”. Anyone looking to place bets at to how long until we see the first hack of this system appear?

The only opt-out policy available is, literally, turning off your phone.

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