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back to article Malls suspend plan to track shoppers' cellphones

Two shopping malls have dropped plans to track shopper's movements after a US senator voiced privacy concerns about the practice, which involves monitoring individuals' cellphone signals. The Footpath tracking system will no longer be used at the Promenade Temecula mall in southern California or the Short Pump Town Center mall …

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Facial recognition?

Can’t they use facial recognition and the mall security cameras to achieve the same end? Not sure how you would opt out though.

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Anonymous Coward

Plenty of malls in the UK use this, Highcross in Leicester is one I can think of.

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Anonymous Coward

No protection either

@AC: "Plenty of malls in the UK use this, Highcross in Leicester is one I can think of."

And what a pity we don't have anyone in the UK who will stand up for our privacy...

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Rly?

I don't doubt you but could you provide details please?

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Anonymous Coward

I think you are thinking of this -

http://www.footfall.com/Documents/Counting%20devices.aspx

Often using infra-red cameras to record movement, but not capture individuals identity.

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Why don't these people get it?

Behaviour tracking should be OPT IN.

If it's so damn good, we'll all want in, right?

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They do get it. What they get is there is money to be made. What the Senator gets is these slim balls must be hit over the head with a bat to make them stop. Of course since this affects them they care. now were is this same bat for the bankers ?

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Anonymous Coward

Why bother with TMSI when you can just use Bluetooth? The shorter range can be a problem, but also gives much finer accuracy (so you can pick individual shops and not just an arcade).

Cookies (as originally intended) allow tracking *within* the website, much as security cameras or the girl at the checkout (or a plain clothes operative) can track *within* a shop. Just because cookies have been abused to allow tracking across websites doesn't mean bricks'n'mortar should be allowed the same abuse.

Adds a new meaning to "Two wrongs don't make a right". If two groups abuse something (do wrong) then everybody is allowed (has the Right) to abuse it?

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Because the manufacturers got better

Not many phones nowadays actively broadcast via Bluetooth unless you tell them to. I suspect watching Noklia get hammered by that virus that spread that way gave them all a reality check.

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Black Helicopters

dropped plans to track shopper's movements?

Or, simply;

dropped plans to tell people they will track shopper's movements?

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Meh

*shudders*

“Personal cell phones are just that – personal,” Schumer wrote. “If retailers want to tap into your phone to see what your shopping patterns are, they can ask you for your permission to do so. It shouldn’t be up to the consumer to turn their cell phone off when they walk into the mall to ensure they aren’t being virtually tailed.”

I live in NY and I actually applaude Schumer for saying this.

I think this is the first time I actually found a politician I agree with...dear god help me

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Unhappy

Asking for permission, 21st century style

"It is a condition of entry to this shopping centre that you permit tracking of your movements via your mobile phone signal. Enabling tracking constitutes your voluntary grant of permission to monitor, record and monetise your location. Refusal to do so may result in you being asked to leave the premises."

You know, the same way an Android weather app requires access to your Web history and contacts list as a condition of use, even though it has no need of this information to function as a weather app.

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Anonymous Coward

Illegal Interception of Communications?

Presumably regardless of whether this has been rolled out in the UJH, it still remains illegal here a la Phorm?

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Silver badge

Much as I agree it should be (and probably is) illegal, Phorm was a slightly different concept in that it was intercepting (website) information the user had specifically requested, while it could be argued that what a phone broadcasts while in standby is not technically (personal) communication - merely an automatic method for staying connected to the phone network.

Although thinking about it as I type it out I realise a lot hinges on what constitutes a communication in the relevant laws on interception.

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Unhappy

"it still remains illegal here a la Phorm?"

And exactly how many people have been arrested and convicted of that?

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Haven't changed the title of this post, as it's appropriate and says it all! Too much tracking going on already in this world. Infernal cheek, I call it.

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"We are simply seeking to create a level playing field for offline retailers"

Should be "We are simply trying to screw people over just like on the Internet".

There, that's better.

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Big Brother

Phorm For Supermarkets?

The Daily Mail ran a story yesterday about this tech being used in the UK. There are a couple of posts from 2008 about Footpath on Spyblog which asks some questions but nothing further. It looks reminiscent of Phorm and smells reminiscent of Phorm...

I wouldn't expect the ICO to be any help at all on this.

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Black Helicopters

Great to see the usual misinformed bunch yapping.

First off, they have better accuracy than "the mall" using the moble, it is possible to get very accurate ideas of where someone is just from what is done now. For whatever obscure reason you think Bluetooth would help... not really, since it is not default on for pretty much anyone in the mall (the point is to know what people do/where they go), but it also is MORE trackable to an individual than the current system.

Second, all those who keep banging a drum on privacy... if you don't want that level of tracking, then forget the shopping centre/mall, but think more about having a mobile in general. Your movements can be tracked, and quite possibly are at times, routinely.

I quite value my privacy, but our shopping centre does (maybe did... we noticed it looks like some parts have been removed recently) use Path Intelligence, and I have to say I don't massively care - it is pretty clever, and as long as they are using TMSI type stuff generally speaking it wouldn't massively upset me from a privacy perspective IF (a) it cannot track a specific person and just shows general areas as I believe it does from what I have seen thus far, and (b) that it has some sort of max-track time since if you do work near the centre there is a possibility potentially that my TMSI won't change all day if I don't have to change cell.

I'm all for privacy, but there is a "when it matters" perspective here, combined with the usual FUD being spewed forth.

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Glad to see a bit of sense.

On the one hand, "OMG they can track my phone" is not a pleasing thing. However, if you REALLY think about it they can track you quite easily through a shopping centre, all they need to do is put together your credit card transactions or something and THAT is a lot less anonymous.

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Creepy surveillance technology from the UK

I suppose we should be pleased to know to that New Labour's approach to surveillance has created at least one money spinning company.

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Black Helicopters

Online and Opt-in

But it SHOULD be Opt-in for Online tracking,

People doing bad stuff is no justification for other people to do bad stuff.

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Anonymous Coward

nefarious plans...

And of what use would that data be to anyone if it remained localised and anonymous? "Anonymous shopper enters this shop, anonymous shopper enters the next next shop, anonymous shopper visits toilet." - Only when related to real people and purchases could the tracking data hold any kind of worth so it's pretty obvious what plans they had for it...

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Big Brother

very nefarious.

Anonymous shopper #8 enters shop, anonymous shopper #8 visits toilet

Anonymous shopper #8 enters shop, anonymous shopper #8 visits toilet

Anonymous shopper #8 enters shop, anonymous shopper #8 visits toilet

Anonymous shopper #8 enters shop, anonymous shopper #8 visits toilet

Oh suddenly there is a requirement to get and retain more and more information because anonymous shopper #8 is obviously a shoplifter stashing their ill-gotten gains in the toilet for later retrieval. It’s to keep crims out of the shopping centre and to keep prices down. It’s all for your benefit y’know.

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Anonymous Coward

Hmm...

If my movements had to be tracked, I would far rather they were tracked by my phone than by CCTV, it's far more impersonal. In addition to that shopping centres can easily put signs up at the entrances saying "turn off your phone if you don't want to be tracked". There's no way that you can opt out of facial tracking, short of wearing a mask, which I doubt would go down that well. Furthermore, I'd be in public, anyone can track my movements in public because I'm moving in public.

That said, it's what the information obtained is used for that is of concern, if it's to improve movement through the centre, great. If it's to force me to be shown things that I wouldn't otherwise see, maybe not so great.

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Flame

Everything is tracked by the myriad of CCTV cameras festooned across the UK, the ANPR tracking of vehicles, every website visit and purchase tracked, google neating photographing everyones house for the sake of 3D maps, every phone call logged and now tracking of your personal mobile! FFS where will it all end?

George Orwells terrifying prediction has come true and then some.... As Hollywood seems keen on rehashing films for the hell of it right now, how about a remake of 'Brazil' ?

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Black Helicopters

It's a nice thought...

That a US senator would think of US citizens privacy first, but I can't help thinking if this had been a US company attempting to do the same thing there would be no resistence based on some bullshit premise that it "creates jobs" or something.

I note that to this date no formal prosecutions have taken place against AT&T for monitoring calls, and they even received amnesty for it from the current presidential incumbent no less!

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And thats were you would be wrong., They care if it affects them. They don't care what country the tech comes from if it can spy on them they want it gone . Phorm is US based company. When they tried that in the US congress ripped them apart. Phorm was first tried in the US, but under a different company name.

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Alert

Turning off your phone...

does not stop them tracking you - it is still on, just on standby. You have to remove the battery to go completely off the air. Although the type of technology used here isn't likely to be covert ops standard.

My apologies to iPhone users :-)

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BINGO!

Until now, even though I SHOULD have considered this, I just realize, that THIS probably is a real reason or a real benefit to Apple not using removable batteries. The device literally cannot be shut down, although it could be Faraday-caged.

But, even in some phones having removable batteries, I heard that there is a 2nd, hidden battery (not just the CMOS/NVRAM to retain on-phone info) that STILL makes a phone trackable or locatable (for a while, maybe a short while) even after the removable battery has been pulled out.

I imagine, though, this won't be too useful if the phone is in a cluttered or weak-signal area that might force the phone to ping out more frequently.

I would surmise that the ability to track a phone having a removed battery is to make it shut down on remote command and to turn on the mic and cam remotely if the accelerometer, gyro, and GPS show the phone is not moving or being apparently handled in a way that might tip off the user remote/surreptitious monitoring is happening. Maybe it is not in widespread use, but I wouldn't be surprise if it is a built-in feature so that spooks do not have to gain PHYSICAL access to a phone or undertake dangerous penetration ops just to TRY to get at the phone. Just get (or not get) a warrant and tell the telco to re-route or fork the packets to a designated server pipe..

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"Oh suddenly there is a requirement to get and retain more and more information because anonymous shopper #8 is obviously a shoplifter stashing their ill-gotten gains in the toilet for later retrieval. It’s to keep crims out of the shopping centre and to keep prices down. It’s all for your benefit y’know."

No, it's much more likely to be focused on which areas of the mall get the most passing foot traffic and therefor should attract a higher lease cost - which will result in higher prices for the end consumer.

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Creeps

It's getting very annoying that businesses now have the mentality that we have to ask them not to do sneaky things behind our backs.

I feel it is time to make it illegal to track people by any means without their (active) consent unless it is via court order.

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Bronze badge

Catch or track the fleeing suspect -- even to the parking lot?

This could also be about tracking or differentiating fleeing shoplifters in a crowd of non-suspects. Heck, the thing might even work out in the parking lot so that the getaway car can be zoomed in on by one of the lot security cams so the police can take over the pursuit.

But, if it curtails shoplifing, will we EVER see a more than generous reduction in the price of retail goods if shoplifting is drastically reduced? Probably not. It'll mean more revenues for some stores that are heavily impacted by successfully escaping shoplifters, and it means the stores -- especially anchor tenants -- have more money to bolster profit report, exec bonuses, hiring, or just to help mall owners rationalize a new way of extor... ummm, extracting higher lease money out of tenants they can say are retaining more profits with the significant dropping in revenue-robbing shopliftings.

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