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Malls Track Shoppers' Cell Phones On Black Friday 198

antdude writes in with a story about two U.S. malls that plan on tracking shoppers' movements by monitoring the signals from their cell phones this Friday. "The management company of both malls, Forest City Commercial Management, says personal data is not being tracked. 'We won't be looking at singular shoppers,' said Stephanie Shriver-Engdahl, vice president of digital strategy for Forest City. 'The system monitors patterns of movement. We can see, like migrating birds, where people are going to.' Still, the company is preemptively notifying customers by hanging small signs around the shopping centers. Consumers can opt out by turning off their phones."
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Malls Track Shoppers' Cell Phones On Black Friday

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  • by fahrbot-bot ( 874524 ) on Wednesday November 23, 2011 @05:16PM (#38152510)

    Still, the company is preemptively notifying customers by hanging small signs around the shopping centers. Consumers can opt out by turning off their phones.

    Ya, but the sign shown doesn't mention turning off your phone... Just to visit the Management Office or visit their website if you have questions. Of course, visiting the office will entail getting tracked. Also, I'm not sure how tracking our phones will help "enhance your shopping experience".

  • Anonymous? So Far... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by zentec ( 204030 ) * < minus painter> on Wednesday November 23, 2011 @05:17PM (#38152526)


    "The tracking system, called FootPath Technology, works through a series of antennas positioned throughout the shopping center that capture the unique identification number assigned to each phone (similar to a computer's IP address), and tracks its movement throughout the stores. ... And it doesn't collect any personal details associated with the ID, like the user's name or phone number. That information is fiercely protected by mobile carriers, and often can be legally obtained only through a court order. "

    Yet. You can bet your sweet bippy that while the mall can't get the identifying information, the mall *will* sell it to the carriers who do have the information. This would be a marketing goldmine for the carriers, and one they could not help but to exploit for fun and most importantly, profit.

    I would opt out by simply not shopping at that mall. My cellular phone is for my own convenience and one that I pay to maintain, it isn't so companies can figure out where I shop and give them incentive to try to get me to be a good little consumer and spend all my money.

    My tolerance for this kind of thing is getting lower each time I read stories like this. More and more, companies seem to view the public as sheep to be shorn without any expectation of privacy, rights nor recourse.

  • Re:Opt out (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Robert Bowles ( 2733 ) on Wednesday November 23, 2011 @05:23PM (#38152578)

    Suppose you root through people's trash and search for financial information. As long as you promise not to use it to single anyone out, its not malevolent. Anyone who doesn't like it can "opt-out" by keeping the trash in their house.

  • Newfangled Shopping (Score:4, Interesting)

    by retroworks ( 652802 ) on Wednesday November 23, 2011 @05:26PM (#38152600) Homepage Journal
    Back in the day, the malls had a person with a thumb-clicker counting people as they walked through doors. I didn't consider it a privacy issue. And I assume while I shop online that my movement is being tracked much more closely. But more to the point, shopping malls are going the way of the dodo. The Mall company may find it a pretty depressing set of data. []
  • Re:Opt-In (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Richard_at_work ( 517087 ) <> on Wednesday November 23, 2011 @05:34PM (#38152682)

    I do find the many conflicting faces of slashdot amusing - on one hand, apparently connecting to an unsecured wifi network is perfectly acceptable because it's publicly broadcasting a signal, but on the other hand tracking a publicly broadcasted signal from a mobile phone is a big no-no.

  • by _0xd0ad ( 1974778 ) on Wednesday November 23, 2011 @05:54PM (#38152912) Journal

    You need to just quit whining. "Black Friday" refers to Friday the 13th, or any Friday on which a catastrophe occurs. The only reason the day after Thanksgiving is called "Black Friday" is because the Philly PD started calling it that: []

    JANUARY 1966 -- "Black Friday" is the name which the Philadelphia Police Department has given to the Friday following Thanksgiving Day. It is not a term of endearment to them. "Black Friday" officially opens the Christmas shopping season in center city, and it usually brings massive traffic jams and over-crowded sidewalks as the downtown stores are mobbed from opening to closing.

  • by Stormthirst ( 66538 ) on Wednesday November 23, 2011 @06:05PM (#38153044)

    The difference between the loyalty thingy and this is that the loyalty thingy pays you a nominal amount. The amount you get paid varies from company to company, and usually you can only buy from that company. It's purely an opt-in process.

    This on the other hand gives you nothing - and it's opt out in the one of the most invasive ways. Most people carry phones because they want to be contactable.

  • by Attila Dimedici ( 1036002 ) on Wednesday November 23, 2011 @08:05PM (#38154132)
    That reminds me of something it took my wife the longest thing to figure out. When the grocery store near us introduced self-checkout, I refused to use them even when I only had one or two items. My wife could not understand why. I explained to her it was a matter of principle. When they introduced them, they started to run these announcements over the in store intercom about every five minutes that said something along the line of, "For your convenience, we now have self-checkout lanes." I knew full well that they did not put the self-checkout lanes in for my convenience. They put the self-checkout lanes in to save money on cashiers. Of course, it has turned out not to have worked out that way for them, as a recent article on slashdot mentioned (I wonder how much that has to do with their attempt to mislead their customers as to why they were doing it).

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