back to article Mobiles help UK malls track shoppers' every move

Mobile phone tracking technology is being put to good use watching how punters migrate around a shopping centre, thanks to gear from Portsmouth-based Path Technologies. By installing receivers around a shopping centre the company can pick up communication between handsets and base stations, enabling them to track shoppers to …

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  1. Mike Crawshaw
    Black Helicopters

    Cue.... (queue? que? Let's not start that again...)

    me turning my phone off and on repeatedly whilst waiting for the gf to decide which pair of shoes she actually wants. If they want to know where I'm going and what I'm doing, they can ask me.

    (And I'll say no, of course, but it's only polite for them to ask, rather than assuming that I want them to track me.)

    Any details which malls are involved in this?

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Coat

    I don't see how this will work a Mall

    As once you are logged on to your network and no calls or SMSs are received, a message is only sent from the phone to the tower every 90 minutes or so, unless the signal is lost or the mobile requests to change cells. So the only way this could be implemented in a Mall is to put in some kind of mobile jammer at shop entrances that will block the signal temporarily and cause the phone to re-log on to the network.

    You can prove the phone doesn't send regular data by either leaving your next to a radio so you can hear the interference when the phone broadcasts, and if you are in a strong signal area this will not happen often.

    Or if you remove the battery from your phone (to simulate going out of coverage and so it does not send any shutdown messages), then phone it. There will be a 10-15 second delay before going to voicemail.

    If you turn it off via the off button and then phone the mobile you will be instantly sent to voicemail as when the phone shutdown it tells the network this is occurring.

    So if the network was expecting to receive data from the phone every few seconds, the delay to voicemail wouldn't occur if it wasn't shutdown gracefully.

    However this system would work for tracking across towns are when moving the phone will be often changing between cells.

    Mines the one with nerd on the back

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Flame

    Tracking InPhormation ?

    *cough*

    "I am NOT a target market!"

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Alien

    alton towers shopping???

    what the hell is going on...I don't want people tracking me round the shopping centre or tellilng me when there are no queues in woolworths so I can run over there!!

    I have enough trouble shopping without being thinking someone is watching me and saying that muppet has already been to that shop three times!!!

    I hope their putting up signs to tell people their being tracked....how the hell can people get away with thinking they have the right to do things like this 8(

  5. Rob
    Stop

    malls? in the uk?

    I thought we had shops, leave the made up words bastardising the english language to the 'merkins.

    I know they are just trying to conjure up some sort of cultural identity, but please don't pander to it, they'll just play up even more.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Please leave a message after beep.

    Hi, I can't answer my phone right now. I am either in a meeting, at the cinema, or I have temporarily turned my phone off because I am in a location known for tracking GSM signals. Please leave a message or try to phone me again in a few hours time. <beep>

  7. Andy Turner

    Seems like an old-tech way of doing this

    When RFID is everywhere, this kind of thing will be much easier to do.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Slipper slope

    And no doubt some dick will demand that data be logged, for erm, anti terrorism purposes. That way they can map the existing log of the phone to the local log to locate the corresponding CCTV image which is also recorded.

    The EU has already accepted Blairs argument that it's perfectly OK to put people under surveillance and store that data away for a couple of years, JUST IN CASE they go onto to commit a crime, instead of actually have cause first, then warrant then surveillance....

    Once you do away with the old fashioned idea of privacy rights, this is only a tiny step away from that.

    Then other things become possible too, the German interior minister wants all transactions (email/internet/phone/atm everything) logged and continuously data mined for evidence of crimes. Having already accepted the principle of monitoring innocent people not under suspicion this too is only a small step away.

    And UK wants to record all transactions to outside UK, because non UK citizens don't vote presumably, it make it easier to justify. Having accepted that you can monitor innocent people without particular suspicion of crime, all things become possible. So they'd monitor the web to go arrest anyone looking at dirty prono sites no doubt, or reading up on 'lethal' cannbis plant sites.

    Why you could even demand the right to turn on their webcams and remotely record their own homes, hey they might go on to commit a crime.... think how much easier it is to arrest people if you can pull up their data at the flick on a switch.

    All things become possible when you remove the right of privacy. The ECJ should strike down that data retention directive, since it's that directive that accepted the principle of preemptive surveillance of innocent people, and it's from that, that all this creepy stuff is made possible.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Portsmouth

    According to Times Online:

    "It has already been installed in two shopping centres, including Gunwharf Quays in Portsmouth, and three more centres will begin using it next month."

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Boffin

    @Anonymous Coward

    Most large indoor areas use special indoor base stations with a much smaller cell than outdoors.

    They're often quite unobtrusive, and can also be spotted in small areas with high concentrations of cell phones (like railway platforms).

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Coat

    Three ways round this...

    I could keep turning my phone on and off...

    Or I could shop elsewhere...

    But I think the best solution involves a lump hammer applied to the receivers.

  12. Justin Case
    Coat

    Is this legal

    At some level this is interception of a private conversation - all be it one that my phone is having with its base station. I am not a happy bunny about this at all.

    Mine's the one with the lead lined pockets for me mobe

  13. John Colby

    If we all had ...

    If we all had Professor Zyborg implants there wouldn't be a need for this anyway.

    I presume that this is being done in the name of marketing. Or making money from marketing - so you can collect the data to sell as market intelligence. I favour the off switch approach.

  14. Charlie Clark Silver badge
    Pirate

    It's illegal

    Under pretty much every form of legislation in Europe - as it is listening in to private radio transmissions. Probably wouldn't stop net neutral webiots (just coined this one) signing up for their right to be snooped upon.

    Bluetooth analysis is probably a lot more effective and legally less of a problem - if you leave Bluetooth on and discoverable (most people seem to do so) you are giving permission to be discovered.

    Pirate because I'm still smiling at my home town's place on the BSA naughty list.

  15. Graham Marsden

    @Portsmouth

    "It has already been installed in two shopping centres, including Gunwharf Quays in Portsmouth"

    Oh well that's ok, then, there's bugger all worth going to the Gunwharf for anyway!

  16. John Chadwick

    If I was a retailer I'd be more worried.....

    If this tracks people in and out of the shops, just think your average property company would be bound to latch on to the idea of:

    A. Raising your rent because of the number of people visiting you shop.

    B. Kicking you out because you aren't attracting enough business.

    C. Raising the rent of the coffee shop net door because there's more passing trade available.

    D. Raising the rent because of the average amount of time customers spend in the shop.

    Personally, I don't give a stuff who knows where and when I am, but I would like to know they know, and who they can give the information too.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Flame

    How it works

    Technical details on how it works here:

    http://v3.espacenet.com/textdes?DB=EPODOC&IDX=WO2006010774&QPN=WO2006010774

  18. Tom Wood

    CCTV?

    Most shopping centres like this have CCTV which covers the entire mall. What's to stop them using this to track individuals' movements? (Though may be a rather manual time-consuming process until image processing techology gets to this level of sophistication).

    Is there really any difference (other than scale) if they track your movements by phone signal? In terms of privacy, assuming you've agreed to being filmed by CCTV (which you have by walking past the signs at the mall entrances), they can theoretically track you. The fact that they can do this by a different technology now (GSM signals) doesn't change the privacy issue.

    (If technology doesn't work, they could always send a spy to follow you at a safe distance...)

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Mobile Phone Tracking

    Mobile tracking companies like http://www.mobilelocators.com require permission to do this. Won't these shops be able to use the same technology to track your phone back to where you live?

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    FUN!

    sounds like great fun to me!

    get 10 phones and walk in and out of ann summers all day !

    if you are worried about being tracked then leave the phone in the car !

  21. Ed

    Which ones?

    How do we find out where this technology is being used?

    @Rob - Mall is perfectly valid in English as well as American. See Fowler's Modern English Usage.

  22. jai

    flashmobs

    so in theory, you could really muck up their statistics by getting 500 people to turn up at a shopping centre (what we call malls on this side of the pond) and just aimlessly wander around for 3 hours without setting foot inside a single foot

    OR worse, if a company is about to launch a new product, they could hire 500 people to turn up repeatedly throughout the day and just make a bee-line to the shop that's selling the product

  23. Aaron Harris
    Boffin

    Gunharf Quay

    I notice that Gunwharf have a "Questions answered" section on their web site, strangely no questions about "do you track my every move including those of my bowels...

  24. Omer Ozen

    re: webiots - @Charlie Clark

    Sorry to rain on your parade mate but... your newly coined word has been doing the rounds for oh, at least for 3 years.

    http://www.google.co.uk/search?source=ig&hl=en&rlz=&q=webiots+&btnG=Google+Search&meta=

  25. Booty Inspector
    Stop

    Staff Tracking Too?

    So what's the chances of the shopping centre's staff being able to remove themselves from this system? Bugger all, so you better stop hanging around the back room in pairs.

    Looks like those almost-obsolete OFF-LINE stores are about to lose a load of staff, as well as the remainder of their shoppers.

  26. Hollerith
    Coat

    hours of fun

    Hang an unwanted phone from a string at the back of a display rack in any shop. Ann Summers has been mentioned, and this would work. Or somewhere unobtrusive in a public loo. Then be ostentatiously elsewhere, in view of CCTV. Worth the cost just to b*gger up their surveillance.

    Or tin foil around the phone.

    Mine's the dirty mac, me acting suspiciously. Or my phone is.

  27. Chris Martin
    Alert

    Wireless Telegraphy Act ?

    I thought it was illegal to intercept transmissions that were not intended for you. This being under the Wireless Telegraphy Act of the 1950s.

  28. Matthew Newstead
    Black Helicopters

    GSM / Timing Advance 101

    GSM uses a cyclical system whereby customers calls are all digitally sampled in turn. customer 1, then 2, then 3 etc... then back to customer 1 again. this all happens in a blink of an eye, so that customers can't detect the 'break' between each time their call is actually using a 'timeslot'.

    GSM then gets clever... imagine you are standing by the BTS (phone mast) with your mate, talking to them on the phone (as you do), but then they dash off to Maccy D's 1km away.

    You started off both covered by the same 'cell', and the BTS will use something called timing advance, whereby your mates signal is progressively broadcast fractions of a second sooner, to compensate far how far they are moving away from the BTS - this ensures that the above mentioned cyclical system remains intact, with customer 1 remaining as customer 1 within the cycle, and your mate say as customer 4... in a nutshell, timing advance tops your mates timeslot from running into customer 5's allocated timeslot.

    As timing advance technology is based on the speed of radio waves through air, it can be used to find how far you are from the BTS. the frequency of this distance checking signal is such that GSM Timing advance maps you into one of several 500m 'distance zones' - so for your mate 1km away, their signal would have been broadcast one to two timing advance periods earlier than it would have been if they were still stood by you.

    still awake?

    So - you then get B-A listing where your phone maps out ALL it's surrounding BTS's, and figures out how far away it is from each. it's clever brain translates this into a trigonometric map showing roughly where you are.

    HOWEVER the big no-no with this 'precision' shopping centre system is that the timeslot advance and B-A listing can only overlay several 500m zones over each other to build a probability map of which location you're actually in. You would need loads and loads of 'listening' equipment installed probably all the way out to 2km away from the shopping centre to get enough overlaid 500m zones to properly judge what individual phones are doing, This would require wayleaves and third party clauses with so many landlords etc for the install of 'black chopper kit' upon their rooftops that it would become unfeasible for a shopping centre to fund.

    so - my conclusion? it's not using GSM timing to figure out where you are

  29. DM

    @ Tom Wood

    There are clearly defined DPA issues with recording CCTV, hence the signs will have a legal declaration about what they are collecting data for, usually something along the lines of "for the detection and prevention of crime" . I've yet to see one that says "To collect and sell information about where you've been"

    That's the fundamental difference!

    HTH

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    I think it's time to..........

    Purchase a mobile phone jammer for trips to the shopping centre!

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Alert

    Flat Battery

    If they are gonna keep requesting transmit from my phone will the battery go flat faster and where do I send the bill?

  32. Chris Williams
    Black Helicopters

    Your journey to the dark side is complete!

    Ah, the human race: we're the cleverest of all the earth-dwelling bipeds!

    We have cameras following our every move, we have plans for a national database of emails and phone calls, and a system to track us as we traipse brainlessly from shop to shop stocking up on products to distract us from the fact that we have given up our individuality and humanity to an imposed order of compliance and acceptance.

    This is what the 21st Century has brought us, though barely eight years in: Gordon Brown as Darth Vader without the vocoder and cool suit.

    What fuckeries.

  33. Xpositor

    Mall Usage

    @Ed - F*****g c**t is perfectly valid in English. Doesn't mean that it should be used, or indeed that the majority of people wish it to be used. Be careful, soon you'll be spelling "Mall" as "Shopping Center". Anyway, isn't EN and EN-GB one and the same, so why the need for EN-GB?

  34. Andrew Culpeck
    Black Helicopters

    Privacy..

    .. What privacy

  35. Xpositor

    Bit strong

    Sorry, swap previous asterisked comment for "b****y h**l" or some such milder expletive.

  36. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    Maybe....

    Maybe it uses it's own proprietary system and just listens for the timing advance responses from individual phones without using the GSM carrier as a reference..... but itself uses much faster clocking to count how many cycles between each incoming signal. This would achieve a much more granular detection system (100 times faster detection cycle/frequency than the native GSM network would give a 5m distance zone.....)

    So just a few of these would be needed in the shopping centre to track you anonymously, and it's completely non invasive, being a listening only network of little black boxes

    ok - so it's not GSM but exploits the fact that radio's are uniquley identifiable radio transmitters....

    hang on - stick a bit of carrier wave amplitude modulation caused from power surges when you're actually talking down the microphone (inducing a current in the phone, therefore stronger radio output, intentional or not) and you have a way of bugging mobile phones whilst on your premises!

    "No Darling, DO NOT BUY THE PRADA ONES!!!! "

  37. Charlie Clark Silver badge
    Unhappy

    @Omer

    Oh, well. It's a shit term anyway!

  38. A. Lewis
    Black Helicopters

    I don't understand....

    ..the objections.

    Why do people mind being tracked as they walk around a public place? Hundreds of people will see you and what you're doing anyway. Why on earth would you care if a little anonymous dot on a screen is being recorded as you walk around?

    Sounds rather like certain commentators are doing things they probably shouldn't. The innocent have nothing to fear etc.

  39. Chris Williams
    Thumb Up

    @Xpositor

    > Sorry, swap previous asterisked comment for "b****y h**l" or some such milder expletive.

    What does Benny Hill have to do with anything?

  40. Peyton

    @Charlie Clark

    Made up words are not allowed. Please see Rob and Xpositor for reasons why. How one can actually speak/write without using made-up words is beyond me I'm afraid - last I checked, 100% of the English language consisted of made-up words.

  41. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    SDR

    the company that rents the RF tracking gear to the shopping centre has developed the 20 needed software defined radios (GNUradio FPGA based USRP's) using Open Source. Get your own GNU USRP from Matt Ettus (ettus.com) £350 for a DC to 2.9GHz universal (almost) radio and do your own tracking/whatever!

  42. Anonymous Coward
    Pirate

    could just use simple trigonometry

    It does not have to be rocket science, just clever use of trigonometry. While three active directional and active receivers would do for tracking if for pragmatic reasons any company implementing this might choose say eight receivers to cover a volume (mall) between them. It is not difficult to trace any sending technology with extreme precision. Also it would be possible to have software which did not get very confused by resets of the mobile phones. This could be sorted by error correction and probability algoritms. Yes it would not be 100% correct all the time, but it would certainly be working most of the time - how many mobile phones do you reset at the same time within any small volume of space? So if you only reset one phone - how likely do you think that the software would be able to correctly assume that 'the new' which all of a sudden appeared in the middle of the mall is the same as the one which just 'disappeared'? In fact you could even ignore the identifier in the signal completely and develop a reasonably reliable survaillance system by just having a signal to listen to.

  43. Anonymous Coward
    Unhappy

    @I don't understand....

    1) The tracking data is not being "seen, then forgotten". To the contrary, it's saved -- perhaps for years.

    2) As stated in the article, someone can take that and cctv recordings and then remove the anonymity.

    Looking at red shoes may be completely innocent today. In two weeks, when the next Osama video comes out with him wearing red shoes, you're all of a sudden implicated.

  44. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hmmm

    Might be time to head down to GunWharf Quays with an old mobile phone, slip it in a dustbin and see if they get in flap when it hasn't moved for 2 hours

  45. Anonymous Coward
    Alert

    My God

    The number of clueless supposed knowledgeable IT bods on this message board fills me with an existential dread.

    No where in the article was any reference to interception of communications mentioned, it is not required for the technology to work, they are just reading your TMSI which you broadcast.

    Twats

    "could use simple trigonometry" - errrr .. yes that's what they are doing, read the damn article again.

  46. Vernon Lloyd

    AAAHHHHHHHH

    My Head hurts

  47. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: My God

    The Wireless Telegraphy Acts use the term "interception" to essentially mean eavesdropping. My TMSI is intended for reception by the network, if anyone else receives this signal and makes use of it (that last bit is important), then they have intercepted a communication and have broken the law.

  48. Jamie
    Linux

    Simply do what I do

    Don't go to those areas. I only go out shopping to get groceries on Saturday morning as I hate being crowded. All the shoppers are just mindless sheep following the pied piper.

    The pied piper may have led children but he would have to bow down to business and government today with the way they get people to follow.

  49. Chris Martin
    Black Helicopters

    Reply to 'My God'

    "No where in the article was any reference to interception of communications mentioned, it is not required for the technology to work, they are just reading your TMSI which you broadcast."

    The Wireless Telegraphy Act would cover this the TMSI would be classed as information that is not intended for the reception of the shopping centre! If the TMSI is encapsulated with other data, but recieved and separated, surely that is an offence just in the recieving part of it!

    The TMSI's purpose is for handsets to be identified on the network, therefore the only people who would have a use for this is the handset and the phone network. Clearly not the third party (Shopping Centre) !

  50. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: Re: My God

    Publish and be damned

  51. Steve Evans

    Hmmm...

    Distancing themselves from nasty tracking systems, but not brave enough to name the two shopping centres using it.

    I'll have a guess though... Lakeside in Essex and Bluewater in Kent.

    I bet I'm right on at least one of those.

    And if you were watching me at the weekend, I went to Optomatix, then Jessups, saw Jessups price was a bit steep so I went back to Optomatix and shopped there... OKAY?!

  52. Richard Bragg

    Don't have a mobile phone ...

    Well I have one when I'm on call for work but that's it. When I'm not on call it's off and left in my laptop bag.

    I have a perfectly good phone on my desk when I'm at work. If I'm not at my desk I don't want to be called.

  53. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    what's the point?

    Surely all they have to do is count how many people enter the shopping centre and how many people enter each of the shops.... then they can get out a calculator and figure out how many shops the average person goes into. Simple and completely anonymous.

  54. Anonymous Coward
    Stop

    It doesn't work.....

    ..... reliably unless you have Bluetooth on!

    After reading the patent application http://v3.espacenet.com/textdes?DB=EPODOC&IDX=WO2006010774&QPN=WO2006010774

    <quote>

    The equipment has a a plurality of receivers capable of receiving all mobile transmissions including but not limited to GSM, CDMA, Bluetooth and WiFi.

    The system searches for a unique identifier in the monitored transmission, this unique identifier in GSM could be the mobile device's IMSI, TIMSI or IMEI. For Bluetooth or WiFi, the unique identifier could be the mobile device's MAC address

    <unquote>

    So unless you have an active call on your mobile the only GSM transmissions that an idle phone will make is a periodic update which is around every 2-3 hours or more on most networks, or a paging boundary change which is unlikely (but not impossible) within a shopping centre.

    By not emphasising that bluetooth is the main means of tracking you are left in a quandary about whether you should switch your mobile off and be uncontactable , but you would certainly switch off bluetooth if that was the main method of a passive system tracking you against your wishes.

    They will get very limited information from you walking round with a mobile with Bluetooth switched off . I would estimate most of the data from GSM transmissions alone would be worthless compared to a beaconing Bluetooth mobile.

  55. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So, in summary....

    - It sounds like it's in breach of the Wireless Telegraphy act; can anyone suggest a loophole that they might be using?

    - These people say the data is anonymous, but the Data Protection act's definition of personal data includes "data which relate to a living individual who can be identified from those data and other information which is in the possession of, or is likely to come into the possession, of the data controller"; since this data could be correlated by the shopping centre's management with their CCTV records, or by a store with their card payment records, I think it's clear that it is personal data.

    - It probably doesn't work properly anyway since the phone to base-station messages when inactive are only every hour or so.

    I wonder if Portsmouth's local paper would be interested in this story?

  56. Chris
    Black Helicopters

    @CCTV

    Already done.

    In Reading, we trialed, and still have, the 5 point facial recognition software. All the cameras are linked to a central control room, including the ones in the Oracle shopping center and other shops. Many of these are also linked to the tills, so everywhere you go, and everything you buy is stored with an "anonymous" code generated from the ratios and angles of the five points. This is the reason why some shopping centers banned hoods and caps a while back, as they interfered with the system.

    If the police want to investigate you, all they have to do is feed the system a photo of you, which can then be matched with the stored logs, and they can bring up all this information. Many of the traffic cameras also now use ANPR, so they know what car you drive to the shops, where you go and what you buy.

    They're soon going to be trialing (or possibly have already started) extra sofware that automatically alerts security if you are "acting suspiciously". (quite likely considering how suspicious the police are)

    So act a bit shifty in Reading, and be assured that some plod is browsing over your every move in the town for god knows how long. Since the data is "anonymous" I'm not even sure they have to delete the data after a certain amount of time.

    Unsuprisingly this phone thingy doesn't really worry me. The technology behind it seems flaky at best, and you can turn your phone off, unlike your face.

  57. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    Gunwharf Quays

    I think this has just solved the mystery of this box:

    http://www.kcip.com/stuff/path.jpg

    Spotted on the wall above shops in Gunwharf Quays, Portsmouth last week. What's not very clear in that picture are the four stub antennas on top, maybe one for each GSM network?

  58. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    @ A.Lewis

    I don't object to people watching me in a shop, or taking pictures of the front of my house or my car, what I object to is people structuring this data into a database and using this data in powerful ways without my consent.

    We all know that digitized info can be accessed, processed and analysed far more quickly and cost effectively than information stored in short-term memory or misfiled in filing cabinets. Privacy protection we've lost as a consequence of our technology.

  59. John Robson Silver badge
    Coat

    Pay me

    Seriously - guys, pay me a pound or two and I'll carry a shopping centre specific tag with me.

    You could even charge me a pound to take it and give me a fiver when I get back four hours later.

    This is simple economics - you want data about people moving around, people will (generally) be willing to give it to you for cash.

    Mine's the one with the forgotten BlueWater RFID tag in the hood;)

  60. Steve Scott
    Thumb Up

    Cheapest solution

    Forget phone jammers, tinfoil wraps or lead lined pockets. Just turn your phone off...

  61. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hey!

    "Ah, the human race: we're the cleverest of all the earth-dwelling bipeds!

    We have cameras following our every move, we have plans for a national database of emails and phone calls, and a system to track us as we...."

    If we aren't dumb enough to elect a gov that would do this to us we aren't human? I beg to differ - Brits aren't the only human beings on the planet (contrary to what they like to think). Our greater intelligence doesn't disqualify us as human beings.

    :-)

  62. Robert Armstrong
    Thumb Down

    Why is it...

    Why is it that we humans are compelled to turn everything into a marketing opportunity? Can't a fellow have a walk around town and mind his own business without being tracked by marketing folk? Don't the marketing drones understand the word no? As in, No thank you I am not interested. Look at all the companies such as Google who make billions that are built on the quicksand of "marketing opportunities". What happens when people stop buying? I would love to find out. I already ditched the AT&T mobi, maybe I will get a prepaid phone that I keep in the glove box of the car switched off there is an emergency...I think that's the only thing I can do at this point. Just say no to carrying a tracking device.

  63. Maty

    come now ....

    If they don't know everything about you, how can they best take care of you? If they don't know everything about everyone else, how can they best protect you? Can't you see it's for your own good?

  64. heystoopid
    Thumb Down

    Oh well

    Oh well at least now we know why Iphoney has a non removable battery , how evil is that !

    Time to break out the copper foil and remove the phones main battery when out and about !

  65. Fluffykins Silver badge

    some fun

    Why not wander round with a bagful of old mobiles and a handful of PAYG SIM cards. Get into some tiny shop and see if security turn up looking for the crowd

  66. Rich
    Stop

    Ofcom say it's illegal

    http://www.ofcom.org.uk/static/archive/ra/publication/ra_info/ra169.htm

    "a person [commits an offence who] ...... uses any wireless telegraphy apparatus with intent to obtain information as to the contents, sender or addressee of any message ... of which neither the person using the apparatus nor a person on whose behalf he is acting is an intended recipient;"

    If I was in the UK and knew of a shopping centre that had one of these, I'd be writing to Ofcom. The address is in the link.

  67. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Sex Shops

    Better no go in there Henry!

  68. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @AC - Sex Shops

    Ann Summers, then Dixons? Sounds like reason to suspect that you bought handcuffs and a camera to film some extreme porn with your girlfriend.

    Why let the crime happen when we could simply lock you up the minute you get back home? Not in the "Mall" of course - don't want to upset the sheeple.

  69. dervheid
    Unhappy

    O.K. Enough already.

    I give up. Just come and chip me now.

    Might as well.

  70. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Robert Armstrong

    "What happens when people stop buying? I would love to find out."

    This has been tried by various groups in America and has spread around the world. They stopped buying anything new except essentials for a year, some are making it a way of life. The only detail I can remember is that other members of their communities branded them communists and un-american, apparently shopping is a form of patriotism.

    Search for "the compact" or freegans, the latter seems to be a PC word for tramp, or try this.

    http://tinyurl.com/2ancv5

  71. Anonymous Coward
    Stop

    Re. "Maybe..."

    "hang on - stick a bit of carrier wave amplitude modulation caused from power surges when you're actually talking down the microphone (inducing a current in the phone, therefore stronger radio output, intentional or not) and you have a way of bugging mobile phones whilst on your premises!"

    Have you got any idea how weak the signal from a microphone is compared to almost any other signal inside a mobile phone?

    The impact these percentages of a microWatt of power has on transmission strength is several orders of magnitude below the noise floor generated by all the other components (like the display).

    If yelling into the phone could give a measurable impact on transmission power, you should consider patenting a sound-driven phone charger.

  72. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Further ramifications

    If the mobile phone provider keeps a record of what temporary ID was assigned to which phone/subscriber at any given time, then it's a trivial matter for the data to be un-anonymised.

    So *there*'s a nice little earner for the operators of this tracking software: "Hey, Orange, want to buy some data on your customers?"

  73. Anonymous Coward
    Unhappy

    We can see you, hear you, read your eMail, track you - we OWN you...

    'Most of the GSM connection is encrypted, so there's little chance of an individual customer being identified.'

    Of course - but just think how much more valuable the information would be if it were tied to your real ID?

    Still, no one would be working on that - would they?

    This really has gone far enough. Phorm, the Government's proposed database of ALL telecoms data, and now being tracked via our mobile phones!

    What we need is legislation that makes collecting information of any sort about ANYONE, by ANYONE, without a court order granted by a court sitting in open session, without the individuals consent a serious criminal offence.

    The alternative is: Wait for the current incompetent Stalinist incumbent to be evicted from Downing street, give the replacement a couple of years - on the off chance he's remotely capable - then move out to the country with the most effective privacy laws you can find and would be happier living in.

    Me? I'm already looking. When I read 1984 as a kid I never thought it would happen, now it has, I'm getting out while I still can...

  74. A. Lewis
    Black Helicopters

    @ Respondents to "I don't understand".

    Thanks for your replies, but I still don't get it. How can you have concerns over your privacy when you are in a public place?

    Yes this technology makes it a lot easier to track you, but it's nothing the shopping centre couldn't have done anyway had they wanted to.

  75. Christopher Boomer
    Coat

    Another British Disaster ...

    "When I read 1984 as a kid I never thought it would happen, now it has, I'm getting out while I still can..."

    <bing-bong>

    We apologise for the late arrival of this apocalyptic scenario, which was due to a signal failure at Charing Cross and smarm on the line at Downing Street.

    </bing-bong>

  76. b

    How can you have concerns over your privacy when you are in a public place?

    How can you be stalked in a public place?

  77. radian
    Paris Hilton

    @ Vernon Lloyd

    Yep, I know what you mean. Fancy a pint?

  78. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Also,

    Nothing has been mention in the local Portsmouth news about this scheme, or as far as I am aware to the local retailers in Gunwharf. Saying that, it might just be where I used to work the manager had his head in the sand/up his ar$e and didn't understand what it was about so didn't pass the info on...

  79. nutellajunkie

    ach

    I dont mind anyway.. But it would be nice to be able to see this tracking data and be able to access it from home. Just for the amusement of watching your own bread crumb trail.

    Still, the old battery may not like the constant /ping.

  80. Anonymous Coward
    Alert

    Gunwharf Quays

    Has anyone tried using their mobile in a shop in Gunwharf at Portsmouth? Good luck, as soon as you get inside a building the signal will drop or completely disappear.

    I worked there for two years and trying to send texts on the shop floor/back areas was a nightmare. So does this mean you will be reconnecting to the masts regularly, therefore getting a new TMSI, therefore meaning most of the info they collect will be rubbish?

  81. Ed

    @Xpositor

    What makes you think "mall" is an Americanism??

  82. Cheesey

    I spend a good 20 minutes on the throne in a mall

    As long as they don't know which trap I'm in that's fine.

  83. Ivan Headache

    @AC

    "Looking at red shoes may be completely innocent today. In two weeks, when the next Osama video comes out with him wearing red shoes, you're all of a sudden implicated."

    Depends if they're backless, strappy or Doc Martens.

    I think you'll be safe 'cos only ladies look at red shoes (unless you have a shoe fetish or something).

  84. cynic
    Boffin

    How?

    Anonymous coward wrote "What's not very clear in that picture are the four stub antennas on top, maybe one for each GSM network?"

    I suspect that the 4 aerials are so that the receivers can determine the direction of the signal by using the phase difference between the aerials - a common DF method for VHF & above. Direction info from 3 or more receivers can then triangulate the position of the transmitter with pretty good precision, as per the patent brief posted earlier.

    What I do not understand is how they get all the phones to transmit often enough to track movements effectively. Bluetooth cannot be the answer because it does not have the range (power) to be received over an area as large as a shopping centre.

    If phones are being made to transmit frequently enough to track shop visits, then as others have pointed out, it will very seriously run down the phone's battery.

  85. Stephen
    Black Helicopters

    F**K THIS S**T!!!

    Title says it all really! Next time I go to a "shopping center" I am taking the battery out of my phone!

  86. George Johnson
    Thumb Up

    @Richard Bragg

    Oh kindred soul! I too have a mobile, "only for emergencies" (ie. lift home when the trains are up the spout!) and on-call work, all other times it's off, usually due a flat battery much to the annoyance of my better half!

    I was thinking of putting an organisation together of people who still manage to live without mobiles, but I can't quite figure out how we would be able to all meet in one place yet?!!

  87. James Cleveland
    Thumb Up

    I don't really care.

    Their mall, their rules. I think information aggregation projects like this are more interesting than invasive.

  88. Paul

    @George Johnson

    I have no mobile at all. Why don't we meet at gunwharf?

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