Last year, shortly before Black Friday, two malls announced plans to track shoppers' physical locations via their mobile 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.
The malls intended to track people until the end of the year, but once news of the initiative got out, a backlash forced the shopping centers to retreat.
At the time, observers suspected that most consumers wouldn't be fond of this type of surveillance.
Now, researchers from UC Berkeley Law have confirmed that virtually no one thinks this type of tracking is acceptable. In a report issued this week, "Mobile Payments: Consumer Benefits & New Privacy Concerns," researchers say 96% of respondents in a recent survey said they didn't think their phones should share browsing information with stores. Seventy-nine percent of respondents said they would "definitely" not allow this type of tracking, while 17% said they "probably" wouldn't allow it.
Physical tracking by retailers is only one potential privacy issue raised by mobile phones. Another stems from the fact that phones can be configured to transmit data about users -- including email addresses and phone numbers -- when people use mobile payment systems
This type of disclosure also raises consumers' concerns, the researchers report.
More than eight in 10 survey respondents (81%), said they wouldn't want to let their phones transmit telephone numbers or addresses to stores. People weren't quite as protective of their email addresses, but 67% said they either "definitely" or "probably" wouldn't allow it.
"Overall, Americans strongly reject systems that would track them as they browsed stores and those that would share personal information with the merchant at the register," the report states.
Results are based on a survey in January and February of more than 1,200 people.