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Australian Malls To Track Shoppers By Their Phones 236

Posted by samzenpus
from the dial-S-for-shopping dept.
Fluffeh writes "Australian shopping centers will monitor customers' mobile phones to track how often they visit, which stores they like and how long they stay. One unnamed Queensland shopping center is next month due to become the first in the nation to install receivers that detect unique mobile phone radio frequency codes to pinpoint location within two meters."
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Australian Malls To Track Shoppers By Their Phones

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  • Good luck... (Score:5, Informative)

    by __Paul__ (1570) on Friday October 14, 2011 @03:19AM (#37711018) Homepage

    ...Australian shops are so overpriced that it's getting to the point where they're not going to have any customers to track.

    • Re:Good luck... (Score:4, Interesting)

      by labnet (457441) on Friday October 14, 2011 @04:31AM (#37711354)

      ...Australian shops are so overpriced that it's getting to the point where they're not going to have any customers to track.

      Amen to that.
      We were quoted $8k for 2 Siemens Wall Ovens.
      UK Retail Price $3.2k
      What did we do? Paid the $3.2k + $800 costs to import them!

      Globalisation is a disruptive force!

      (BTW Australians call them shopping centres, not Malls)
      (BBTW Have seen our supermarkets stocking halloween stuff... go away unwanted American culture)

      • He says on an American website.

      • Re:Good luck... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Muad'Dave (255648) on Friday October 14, 2011 @07:59AM (#37712338) Homepage

        go away unwanted American culture

        I have the opposite opinion than that of what appears to be the majority of my countrymen - please DON'T adopt our culture; make your own!

        I've seen the Bahamas and now the Cayman Islands Americanize themselves - stop it! Not only are you shortchanging your heritage and customs, you're making your tourist destinations bland and boring. No one except culturally vapid, Jerry Springer-ized Americans want to spend $$$ traveling to a supposedly exotic destination only to find Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts on every corner, just like at home. I want to experience your world view, your culture, not a poor reflection of my own.

        A friend of mine accompanied some of those culturally walled-off types on a trip to Scotland a few years ago. She was assured that they'd 'see and do everything'. She ended up being forced by her friends to stay in US chain hotels instead of B&Bs and eat in US chain restaurants instead of local pubs. No local culture, no interaction with non-service industry locals working for US companies, no difference from their normal lives. How boring!

        • Re:Good luck... (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Frenzied Apathy (2473340) on Friday October 14, 2011 @08:55AM (#37712748)
          I echo this.

          Being in the US Navy I saw a lot of the Mediterranean and South American countries. I NEVER ate or stayed at anything that even resembled American culture. Guys would eat hamburgers for dinner in the mess hall on the ship, then go out on shore and hunt down a McDonald's. WTF?!?!
        • by Abstrackt (609015) *

          I have the opposite opinion than that of what appears to be the majority of my countrymen - please DON'T adopt our culture; make your own!

          I've seen the Bahamas and now the Cayman Islands Americanize themselves - stop it! Not only are you shortchanging your heritage and customs, you're making your tourist destinations bland and boring. No one except culturally vapid, Jerry Springer-ized Americans want to spend $$$ traveling to a supposedly exotic destination only to find Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts on every corner, just like at home. I want to experience your world view, your culture, not a poor reflection of my own.

          If only I had mod points.

          The fact that everyone is different and most of us can get along despite that is why I love to travel. I've had some of the most interesting discussions of my life in random bars halfway around the world because the difference in culture gave such varied opinions. When I go to another country I go to see that country, not my own, otherwise I could just save the money and stay at home.

        • by Kjella (173770)

          While I mostly agree, I am happy for the opportunity to hit the emergency brake and find a McDonalds when the local cuisine is creating havoc on my system. If I'm not feeling well then none of the other cultural or other experiences make fun. But if McDonalds is their choice on day one, get better friends...

    • by wvmarle (1070040)

      So what're you going to do about it?

      Walk across the border to New Zealand?

      Stop buying stuff and starve to death?

      • by __Paul__ (1570)

        Umm... no. Anyone with any sense knows they can buy electronic items cheaper from overseas and have them shipped in.

        As for food ... it's almost always cheaper to buy fresh food from local markets than it is to buy it from the supermarkets.

      • by scdeimos (632778)

        So what're you going to do about it? Walk across the border to New Zealand?

        It's a long walk to New Zealand. Hope you can hold your breath.

  • by cbope (130292) on Friday October 14, 2011 @03:19AM (#37711022)

    Great, thanks. Now I know next time I go shopping in Oz I will pop the battery out of my phone.

    WTF is up with companies these days who think they can track everywhere you go and everything you do? If this is not privacy invasion, I don't know what is. Pretty soon every child born will get their global tracking implant right after birth so they can be tracked throughout their life.

    Please repeat, 1984 is NOT an instruction manual.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      This isn't strictly an Australian thing, so you'll need to just get rid of the phone. A prominent, international retailer that I work with is using a service similar to this now. It tracks the unique addresses of the phones of the people in the store as well as the ones just outside of the store. It helps to measure conversion percentages (e.g. how many people that walk in the store actually buy something) and could be used to give an indicator of store front appeal (e.g. phone ID xxx has been walking by

      • by AJH16 (940784)

        Personally, the clubs don't bother me. If they want to know what I buy and when I buy it so they can give me more targeted deals and serve me better, I'm all for it. It's directly related to my business with their store and I see no privacy concern with them knowing their clients. When a mall starts doing wholesale tracking of individuals and not relying on a voluntary system of tracking business transactions, that is certainly a bridge too far.

      • This just demonstrates how invasive and generally crap marketing is.

    • by Hentes (2461350)

      It's enough to just turn on 'flight mode'.

    • by thegarbz (1787294)

      As much as I agree with you about the privacy invasion, in Australia shopping centres are private property and pretty much everything is at their discretion. If they want to track you on the way through the door, well you're in their house so it's their prerogative.

      Not that that is right, just that it is.

      • Shopping centres are still considered Public Places though. Operators of shopping centres dont have as much freedom to act as I do in my home.

        • by thegarbz (1787294)

          No they aren't. According to Australian Law they are completely private and the owners have every right as you do in your own home including kicking you out for no reason what so ever. Same applies to anything basically not owned by the government including stadiums, train stations where run by private enterprises and even Southbank in Brisbane which much of the population doesn't realise is not a government funded public park but a private run enterprise.

          But your view is quite typical in Australia. People

    • by wvmarle (1070040)
      FTFA:

      Prominent signs should notify and seek consent from customers, he said.

      Taking this to the letter implies that there is a way to opt out from the service... "I don't want to be tracked, please do not track this phone". Yet somehow I think that is wishful thinking, and the only way to opt out would be to switch off that phone (not that bad an idea anyway, I do it quite often), or to stay out of the malls (I already only to malls if I really have to, not as "entertainment" what many people do - particularly here in Hong Kong malls are considered a good destination for going

    • by lachlan76 (770870)
      The version [adelaidenow.com.au] that was given in Adelaide provides some details---the ID that is tracked appears to a temporary one, rather than the IMEI.
    • by geekmux (1040042)

      Great, thanks. Now I know next time I go shopping in Oz I will pop the battery out of my phone.

      WTF is up with companies these days who think they can track everywhere you go and everything you do? If this is not privacy invasion, I don't know what is. Pretty soon every child born will get their global tracking implant right after birth so they can be tracked throughout their life.

      Please repeat, 1984 is NOT an instruction manual.

      We're so beyond the concept of "privacy invasion" in this world that it is almost laughable trying to think how we could even remotely get back to a shadow of that definition without causing global collapse. How many companies today solely exist to thrive on gathering, buying, or selling your "privacy" data?

      Hell, Google built an empire just indexing it all.

    • by dbIII (701233)
      The print version of the article says something similar to "as used in some parts of the UK and USA".
    • by bennomatic (691188) on Friday October 14, 2011 @07:27AM (#37712202) Homepage

      I will pop the battery out of my phone.

      I have an iPhone, you insensitive clod!

    • WTF is up with companies these days who think they can track everywhere you go and everything you do?

      What ever happened to "no expectation of privacy in public" or other such slogans? Or does that only apply to police and other public servants?

      (real question, not troll, though I will be modded as such for abandoning the /. groupthink)

    • I understand 1984 was banned in Soviet Russia, but required reading for party officials

    • Seems like turning your phone off might be a good idea in general these days. The constant tracking was one thing, but now this? The cons of having your phone on are starting to outweigh the pros IMO.

      If you're lucky enough to live in an area with good data coverage and plenty of unsecured wifi points, a good way to do to this might be to get an account from a SIP provider and set your cell's unreachable forward to go to the SIP number. That way when you turn your cell modem off calls will be forwarded to yo

  • "Ms Baddeley said mobile phone monitoring, already operating in the UK and US, would help the struggling retail sector develop marketing campaigns and identify the best mix of shops in centres."

    I'd love to know where, so I can avoid the places like the fucking plague.
    • by mrbester (200927)
      Indeed, a citation is needed. Fuck the "struggling retail sector", you don't track me unless you're in possession of a warrant.
      • by c0lo (1497653)

        Indeed, a citation is needed. Fuck the "struggling retail sector", you don't track me unless you're in possession of a warrant.

        I read a few days ago that the retailer space is private property?

    • Re:From TFA (Score:4, Insightful)

      by mjwx (966435) on Friday October 14, 2011 @03:59AM (#37711200)

      "Ms Baddeley said mobile phone monitoring, already operating in the UK and US, would help the struggling retail sector develop marketing campaigns and identify the best mix of shops in centres."

      The retail sector is struggling because I can buy almost everything cheaper from overseas as long as the AUD is above ~0.75 USD. It's currently over 1.00 USD.

      The last person who suggested they reduce prices to be competitive was beaten to death by the Duopoly of Coles/Myer and Woolsworth. Then the corpse was kicked by Gerry Harvey (who seems to enjoy beating dead horses).

    • ..against the law in the UK and USA ... and so not already operating

      Seriously, this is cheaper than asking people ...? No this is a way of selling expensive technology to struggling retailers to do something that can give then no more than less obtrusive methods

    • by vlad30 (44644)
      Alternatively they could offer good service and knowledge of the products they sell, the marketing will be the old word of mouth method the cheapest and most effective at gaining a new sale
      • by MacTO (1161105)

        But that would require spending money on staff who are capable of providing good service and knowing your products, by hiring competent people then training them. That is a big no-no as far as businesses who seek to maximize profits by minimizing expenses (i.e. working people) and maximizing revenues (i.e. consumers) are concerned.

  • Cameras have a hard time IDing people, but this technique will let the shop owners connect the data of multiple shoppings to one person.

  • by bool2 (1782642) on Friday October 14, 2011 @03:52AM (#37711172) Homepage
    In Australia, the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act 1979 explicitly prohibits this activity.
    Section 7 - Telecommunications not to be intercepted

    A person shall not:

    • (a) intercept;
    • (b) authorize, suffer or permit another person to intercept; or
    • (c) do any act or thing that will enable him or her or another person to intercept;

    a communication passing over a telecommunications system.

    This seems like a pretty clear violation to me. (note, that even though it is data traffic between the phone and the cell and not voice, it still violates the above.)

    • by wvmarle (1070040)

      If you had read even the summary you would have known that they do not violate that provision.

      They're tracking phones, no more no less. Just tracking where a phone is, using the radio signals sent by the phone. They don't listen to what the communication is, just keep track of where the signal comes from, and as such where the phone is. It's not even necessary for people to talk on the phone, just having it on is all they need for this.

      • by Wattos (2268108)

        From the article:

        One unnamed Queensland shopping centre is next month due to become the first in the nation to fit receivers that detect unique mobile phone radio frequency codes to pinpoint location within two metres.

        how do they know the radio frequency codes without actually reading the signal? Communication in this sense means the phone signal, not the actual talking on the phone. It doesnt matter whether you are actually talking on the phone.

        • by devent (1627873) on Friday October 14, 2011 @05:45AM (#37711706) Homepage

          That's why /.'s rating system is for the ass. Why his score is 1 and not +5?
          Anyway, even if you do not read the signals from the phone, it is intercepting anyway. You have to receive the signals from the phone somehow to get the position, so it is intercepting. There is also a definition of all terms used.

          "communication" includes conversation and a message, and any part of a conversation or message, whether:
                                                    (a) in the form of: (i) speech, music or other sounds;(ii) data;(iii) text;(iv) visual images, whether or not animated; or (v) signals; or (b) in any other form or in any combination of forms.

          So just a signal is a communication passing over a telecommunications system as defined by law. It is not necessary that the signal is decoded.

          http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/cth/consol_act/taaa1979410/s7.html [austlii.edu.au]

    • As far as I can tell, their system tracks using radio signals, and intercepting radio signals is specifically excluded from this provision. From the Act:

      "telecommunications network" means a system, or series of systems, for carrying communications by means of guided or unguided electromagnetic energy or both, but does not include a system, or series of systems, for carrying communications solely by means of radiocommunication."

      (my emphasis)

      Source: http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/cth/consol_act/taaa1979410/s5.html#telecommunications_network [austlii.edu.au]

    • by bug1 (96678)

      Section 7 - Telecommunications not to be intercepted

      A person shall not:

      (a) intercept;
      (b) authorize, suffer or permit another person to intercept; or
      (c) do any act or thing that will enable him or her or another person to intercept;

      a communication passing over a telecommunications system.

      Its a corporation that's intercepting communications, not a person.

      You think corporations dont get special treatment under the law... what are you simple or something.

    • by c0lo (1497653)

      In Australia, the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act 1979 explicitly prohibits this activity. Section 7 - Telecommunications not to be intercepted

      A person shall not:

      • (a) intercept;
      • (b) authorize, suffer or permit another person to intercept; or
      • (c) do any act or thing that will enable him or her or another person to intercept;

      a communication passing over a telecommunications system.

      A lawyer will argue that air (in which the radio waves travel inside the shopping center) is hardly a telecommunication system.

    • by sam0737 (648914)

      Is it intercept? I bet the service is provided by the telecom, not intercept.
      And is it communication?

  • Federal Privacy Commissioner Timothy Pilgrim said the Privacy Act applied only if the information collected identified individuals.

    Hmm, let's see if they qualify.

    Path Intelligence national sales manager Kerry Baddeley stressed that no mobile phone user names or numbers could be accessed.

    Sounds good so far

    One unnamed Queensland shopping centre is next month due to become the first in the nation to fit receivers that detect unique mobile phone radio frequency codes to pinpoint location within two metres.

    Hmm. That's close, but still doesn't identify you. Looks ok at this point.

    It's much less intrusive or invasive than existing people-counting methods, for instance CCTV cameras and number plate monitoring.

    Ahhhhhh, but when combining cell tracking (to 2 metres) and CCTV's, you are now tracking identified individuals!

  • It seems to track IMEI numbers being broadcast by mobile phones.

    Not PII (personally identifying info) unless they merge the data with mobile carrier's data, which I find unlikely (yes, that's my naÃvite making a rare showing).

    I'm not sure this is worse than the cameras that they already use to track shoppers' movements, which coupled with facial recognition software could be more invasive.

    However, I don't care for it and now have yet one more excuse to *not* go shopping at major retailers. Hopefully m

    • They don't need to merge with carrier data to associate your IMEI with PII.

      Presumably you go to a mall to shop. If you buy things with plastic, they can correlate purchase records with their IMEI snooping records. The more you shop there, the more they can correlate, until it's pretty close to 100% accurate.

      If you buy a phone from a store in the mall.... they have an opportunity to really lock that one in.

      If you have one of these new phones with Near Field Communications for buying things, I guess that's ju

    • by lachlan76 (770870)
      This [adelaidenow.com.au] article claims that it is not the IMEI but the Temporary Mobile Subscriber Identify [wikipedia.org] (TMSI) that is tracked, the key word here being "Temporary".
    • by jquirke (473496)

      The IMEI is usually sent over an encrypted channel, after the CIPHERING MODE COMMAND has been sent in GSM (although the specifications do not mandate this).

      It is not possible to track your long term movements. GSM and UMTS use what is known as the TMSI [wikipedia.org] - the Temporary Mobile Subscriber Identity, which is a 32-bit temporary identifier which may not persist more than a few hours at a time.

      Your IMSI (international mobile subscriber identity) is only ever sent over the air in clear text in 'recovery' situations

  • Does not mean you must.

    This goes for about anything you can think of, not just the invasion of privacy.
  • Path Intelligence national sales manager Kerry Baddeley stressed that no mobile phone user names or numbers could be accessed.

    "All we do is log the movement of a phone around an area and aggregate this to provide trend data for businesses,'' she said.

    Having worked for telcos many years, I know there is no way to get detailed information from a cell phone without hacking it or getting the user to install a tracking app. I'm actually surprised that they even found a way to identify a phone by passively m

  • by bryan1945 (301828) on Friday October 14, 2011 @05:13AM (#37711572) Journal

    None of this technical mumbo-jumbo is going on. The gov is hiring 'roos to track shoppers to lure them to secluded spots where the drop bears can mug them. And they haven't even gotten around to placing the eucalyptus tree bombs yet. Don't even mention the Commando Platypus Squads... shudder.

  • I don't really get it why they invest millions in CCTV cameras, face recognitions, and now in tracking of mobile phones. I'm pretty sure it is not to get more customers to the most shopping centres.

    Because if they wanted more customers, all they have to do is a) extend the opening time to up 10pm (I was in Sydney and it was a real surprise to me that most shopping centres close at 8pm or earlier. If you work up until 5pm, then you have 3 hours max. for the mall. Or like me who study until 4:30pm, then go ho

  • Same story in the UK, in 2008 [slashdot.org]

    How long before we get the slashdot story on a US mall trying this out?

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