Schumer Asks FTC To Weigh In On Shopping-Mall Tracking

by , Nov 28, 2011, 4:24 PM
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This past Black Friday, two shopping centers decided it would be a good idea to track shopper's physical locations via their cell phones. The malls -- Promenade Temecula in California and Short Pump Town Center in Virginia -- put up small signs notifying people of this plan and telling shoppers that they only way to avoid the tracking was to turn off their cell phones.

If there's any place that most people don't want to turn off their cell phones, it's probably the mall. And if there's any time that marketers should want people to stay connected, it's when they're shopping -- especially given all of the new mobile apps aimed at consumers.

Perhaps some consumers don't object to that type of surveillance, but surely most people would prefer to be able to choose whether they're tracked this way. News of the malls' plans prompted Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) to protest to Path Intelligence -- the British company that markets FootPath technology, which tracks people's location by monitoring the signal from their cell phones. “A shopper should not have to choose between the ability to be in touch with friends and family in case of emergency and safeguarding her privacy,” he wrote in a letter to Path Intelligence CEO Sharon Biggar.

“I am concerned that the information Path Intelligence collects could easily fall into the wrong hands and be used to connect personally identifiable data with a shopper's geophysical location and movements,” he wrote. He added that this type of data shouldn't be collected without people's opt-in consent.

Schumer also asked the Federal Trade Commission how FootPath “fits into broader US privacy rules and regulations, and whether our law and policy needs to be updated to address the new kinds of monitoring that innovative technologies allow.”

The two malls originally intended to deploy the technology through the end of the year, but stopped doing so -- at least temporarily -- after receiving Schumer's letter.

4 comments on "Schumer Asks FTC To Weigh In On Shopping-Mall Tracking".

  1. James Boldebook from CBC
    commented on: November 28, 2011 at 6:08 p.m.
    Frankly, this scares the hell out of me. The government tracking any kind of personal information should make your blood run cold. This is the kind of government spy activity that gets way out of control before anyone has a clue of it's potential impact on their privacy. What's next? video facial identificaiton technology to follow your 'shopping habits'?
  2. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited
    commented on: November 28, 2011 at 9:27 p.m.
    We are begging to be controlled.
  3. Bob Dillon from Capalino+Company
    commented on: November 29, 2011 at 9:23 a.m.
    This is exactly the kind of abusive behavior that causes problems for the smart marketers of the world. Anyone who thought about this should have realized that it must be an opt in choice. Not only should a law be created to prevent this but the fines should be significant so that this doesn't happen with a slap on the wrist. In the digital world with viral ability people should go after FootPath, and the malls for this.
  4. Christian Braemer from Joe Media Inc.
    commented on: November 29, 2011 at 2:42 p.m.
    Maybe the execution/PR was bad, but I would argue that this is no more invasive that cookies based tracking on the web. Don't forget, they are tracking a number associated with your device. They have no way of knowing anything about you other than whether you decided to take a right at the elevators and a left at Macy's. Not sure why they even had to put signs up, does the cell phone companies have leave signs in public to track where you go (and cell companies know your name, address, phone, and cc #)? They use similar technology to figure out where to put towers. Big Yawn!

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