back to article Using phone-tracking tech? 'Fess up now, urges expert

The public should be informed when a building or facility operator uses systems to track the location and movements of mobile phones, a data privacy expert has said. Phone-tracking systems are used in some shopping centres and in other environments such as at stadium concerts and in refugee camps. The system helps to build up a …

COMMENTS

This topic is closed for new posts.
Gold badge

There's a difference between "is able to" and "does".

“However, if that company is able to combine that information with other information about that individual [...] this could constitute personal data. The company would then need to notify customers about the way in which and the purposes for which their personal data is being processed,"

There's a big difference between "is able to" and "does". If you insist on the "is able to" test, then you'll simply have a lot of organisations forced to tell punters "We collect X but do not combine it with any other data afterwards so it doesn't matter." (or words to that effect). The end result would be a general public that routinely ignores "data protection" notices.

If you are wandering about in public, people can see you. If they want to track you, they can. We've come several thousand years without society reckoning this is a problem. If it is just a shopping mall trying to improve its floor plan, only the irredeemably anal will care. Obviously if they then hand over the data to the local anti-terror spooks we might have a problem with that, but let's keep our "public outrage powder" dry for that moment when it comes.

3
7

"If you are wandering about in public, people can see you. If they want to track you, they can."

The problem is one of scale, tracking people used to be expensive, and therefore only done with people who were already of interest.

These days, it's become so cheap that people are collecting the information without even having any idea what they want to do with later.

I'm not just talking about Footpath here; ANPR, Face Recognition from CCTV, everything you've ever brought from any of the big supermarkets and the credit card companies. The information is being collected and it's never going to go away.

The old system was effectively anonymity via being lost in the crowd, it was under that environment that the laws regarding privacy were created and evolved but technology has changed that environment and the law hasn't kept pace.

13
1

True. And if you really don't want people to know where you are the first thing you should do is stop broadcasting your 'here I am' signal.

4
5
Anonymous Coward

@Ken Hagan

>If you are wandering about in public, people can see you. If they want to track you, they can.

As an individual you try tracking someone whilst making notes of where they went because you can then see how long it takes for you to be accused of stalking even if you don't know the person nor make any notes which could identify who you are following.

Next you could try asking someone if you can follow them about all day making such notes, I'd like to know how many would give their consent.

4
0
Silver badge
Thumb Down

@Spiracle

Why should I have to be inconvenienced by having to switch off a service I pay for in order to stop freeloading creepy tracking marketdroids?
9
0
Anonymous Coward

@Spiracle

"True. And if you really don't want people to know where you are the first thing you should do is stop broadcasting your 'here I am' signal." Wear a hood to cover your face. Don't use loyalty cards. Only pay in cash. Check all your clothes for RIFD tags. Tinfoil line that hoodie. And most importantly, always post as AC...
4
2
Via Tor...
5
0
Bronze badge

I NEVER check in, and I do not allow my

fb account to let friends check me in with them. I don't care if a $15 meal is reduced to $5.75, i will NOT "check in". Period. I don't care if it reduces the price of a $75 book to $49.99. I won't check in. I have used email codes to get into a venue -- but that was once in a while. I also randomly go into airplane mode -- just for the hell of it. I also make sure my phone is not in wi-fi nor bluetooth modes, too.
3
0
Gold badge

@AC 11:22

Actually, if I go to reasonably large shop, I *assume* that there is an employee of the shop whose job it is to track me whilst I'm in the shop and record the footage on CCTV. I think this has been standard practice in retailing for several decades and society seems to reckon it is OK.

If they follow me home, that's different. But then again, I said as much in my earlier post. Collecting data isn't an invasion of privacy. Trawling the resulting dataset and making certain kinds of connections might be. Computers don't change the principles here. I see no scenario where something that is legal on a small scale becomes illegal just because you've automated it. If it is wrong on a large scale, it was wrong in the individual case, and vice versa.

0
2
Anonymous Coward

@Ken Hagan

>I see no scenario where something that is legal on a small scale becomes illegal just because you've automated

The scenario I mentioned is something which is illegal on a small scale yet you seem to think should be legal on a large scale just because it's been automated.

CCTV is for crime prevention and is generally targetted at those the operators either think, due to their behaviour, or know, due to watch lists, to be potential shoplifters it is not a blanket data collection tool.

1
0
Silver badge
Unhappy

I can't see the defence against the interception charge standing up under scrutiny - the idea of reading only the 'in the clear' data before the encryption stage does sound plausible, but at the end of the day someone is monitoring broadcasts in the full knowledge that they are not the intended recipient, and furthermore they had to build/buy specific equipment to do this.

5
0

So why be coy about it?

If it's all so harmless and inoffensive why do these companies not announce what they're doing loudly and clearly?

Most people's reaction is to assume that these organisations are up to something *because* of the covert way that this is being done. I don't actually object to data mining where I can make a reasoned judgement about participation (or receive an incentive for taking part).

Perhaps the next teenage craze will be to walk around shopping centres in circles to ruin the collected data?

6
0

Instead of walking in circles, Is there a was to spoof such data?

1
0

at a guess

Turn off mobile reception in one store, walk to another & turn it back on, et voila! Either your IMSI stays the same and you "teleported" or you get a different IMSI...
2
0
Bronze badge

Time to start looking for someone who makes or sells spoofers...

There should be a way to override the radiated ID of ones phone to send spuriously random and non-sequential signals. Even if a tower doesn't accept it and rejects it as bogus, at least the phone will be radiating something that shouldn't crash a tower or interfere with LE use of the TOWER. But, if I want my phone to LIE to non-telco-controlled interceptors, that should be my right, right? It's at that point just another form of signal denial: otherwise I could either go into airplane mode with a foil wrapper around the phone or put turn it off -- and STILL wrap it in sandwich foil. Anyone got a problem with that and want to down-mod? Go ahead. Most likely, I expect a downmodder of such comments to be a markettard or some pissed off le agent.
2
1
Happy

Logans Run, the original

Does anyone remember the original Logans Run, 1976, where everyone was happy, tracked every minute of their life and there were sandmen (shopping mall security guards) to escort them to the Carousel (car park) when their time was up. Sounds to me like we are heading in the right direction, all they need to do is expand the goods range in the baby shops.
4
0
FootPath system's collection of data "is in no way analagous to cookies" because the technology neither stores nor accesses information from user devices, Obviously it does store information from the device, it stores the IMEI or ESN from the device surely those would be considered personal data since they can be used to identify you. This defense sounds very similar to Google's stance of we just caught what was in the air with our cars.
1
0
So gang enter shopping centre- the 'Nominated Holder" is given all their phones and starts to wander around the centre avoiding the areas where the gang of nasties are pilfering the shops profits. Defense - "look at your phone tracks - we was all over the other side of the centre guv" I'm getting a tinfoil hat for my phone!
2
0
Anonymous Coward
Biggar - "FootPath system's collection of data "is in no way analagous to cookies" because the technology neither stores nor accesses information from user devices, Biggar said." This seems like splitting hairs over the details of the way the systems work, not their effect. Cookies are stored on the computer as (until we get saddled with fixed IP addresses) it is difficult to 'reliably' identify who someone is in another way. As the information from mobile devices [or at least some of it] is more reliably consistent there is no need to store anything on the device to achieve the effect. The fact that different methods are used does not undermine the analogy in my books. An analogy always fails at some point - that does not, of itself, make the analogy bad.
0
0
Paris Hilton

Snow Job?

I dont suppose someone with the pre-requisite coding skills would like to write an app that generates lots of fake data? Then we could just wander about the shopping centres and make a pigs bottom of their trending data.
2
0
Silver badge

Re: Snow Job?

What good would that do? They are tracking your movement not your traffic. By transmitting traffic you are making their job easier.

What's needed is a stealth mode. Your phone listens without updating your position to the cell towers which providing you don't walk out of the area your were in when you switched to stealth mode should still be able to receive. Upon receiving you can either activate communicatons or call back later. If you choose to answer, the shopping centre will see probably one or two random blips unless you, not you personally you understand, are one of those morons who are constantly talking to thin air with their brain following them 6 feet behind.

1
0
Silver badge
Boffin

Me, as a privacy concious member of the public

employs ECM by having a wideband cellular/wifi/BT/gps jammer upon my person....
3
0
Bronze badge
Coat

Well...

...don't frequent large shopping centres...never go to sports stadia...and REALLY try to stay clear of refugee camps...so go ahead...track me.

0
0
Meh

Tracking ? Blames the Marketeers..

I am an English guy living and working in China, I am sure you have all heard of the censorship on the net inside china , but one hidden piece of information is that the traffic systems track random Mobile phones ( Cellphones ) to analyse traffic flow and integrate with traffic control.

( They also photograph every license plate that passes through traffic lights also)

Well, that's what they say anyway, anyone who has been in a Friday evening downtown Shanghai traffic snarlup will probably say it isn't working :)

Should I be worried ? if the data escapes the traffic network I could be, that data identifies my phone and where I go, and the telco knows who I am, or at least it thinks it does. I have on off the shelf pay as you go SIM card, not a monthly account.

Marketing and Advertising drives all these Invasions of Privacy far more than Governmental concerns, so do yourself a favour, if you know any market analysts, advertising developers or whatever, then please ostracize them immediately.

1
0

Or just don't use a cellphone

I used to have one but gave it up when people started calling me at inconvenient moments. Life is much simpler without them. and I'm unimpressed by the need to contact people "urgently." It is seldom the case.

1
1

very simple solution - for the malls etc

The lawyers will just have the mall owners post a disclaimer in very tiny text at the entrances "tracking technology might be in use at this mall." They probably don't have to tell you if they have it deployed or activated. They might be using it, they might not be, but at least they're covered either way.

In the US this happened when the people with peanut allergies managed to get food packaging changed. I bet they really wanted to know exactly which products should be avoided which contained peanuts. But everyone realized that this opened up the liability gate, so the lawyers slapped "might contain peanuts" on nearly EVERY PRODUCT just to be safe. So... that does not appear to have worked out so well.

0
0
Anonymous Coward

Hmmm ...

Maybe some lockers on a carousel. Amusement Parks could put them on their Roller Coasters.

The tracking idea loses a great deal of appeal when the information is freely accessible to all your competitors (security through obscurity) OR so noisy that nobody can rely on it (Shannon's maxim).

0
0
This topic is closed for new posts.

Forums