Being watched at a mall near you … you!

For years, malls have used various techniques to determine what entrance people use, what stores they go to, and what stores they pass by. Now, the technology exists to track unique cell phone IDs to collect reliable data – in bulk – concerning your movements at malls and inside stores. How do you feel about this?

From CNN Money.

Starting on Black Friday and running through New Year’s Day, two U.S. malls — Promenade Temecula in southern California and Short Pump Town Center in Richmond, Va. — will track guests’ movements by monitoring the signals from their cell phones.

While the data that’s collected is anonymous, it can follow shoppers’ paths from store to store.

The goal is for stores to answer questions like: How many Nordstrom shoppers also stop at Starbucks? How long do most customers linger in Victoria’s Secret? Are there unpopular spots in the mall that aren’t being visited?

This was all done with video monitoring and people trackers before, now they’re going high-tech. Of course market researchers point out no personal information is collected at all, and you can opt-out if you want … by turning off your phone. They make that sound so sweet, “hey, no worries, you can opt out … we even put signs up.”

[T]he company is preemptively notifying customers by hanging small signs around the shopping centers.

Oh come on .. get a clue for goodness sakes. Nobody reads those signs. In my opinion, if you want to use my personally owned equipment to enrich your marketing data, you best ask me if I want to opt-in to your little program. Sweeten the pot by giving me some cash to help pay my cell phone bill while you’re at it.

I wonder how many people would opt-in if they had to ask? My guess … not many.

Stephanie Shriver-Engdahl, vice president of digital strategy for the mall’s parent company notes…

“We don’t need to know who it is and we don’t need to know anyone’s cell phone number, nor do we want that,” Shriver-Engdahl said.

Sure, you’re not interested in who it is or what the phone number is, but I guaranty you mall marketing staff is already collecting approximate age, sex, what stores people visit, and how long they stay. I’m somewhat cool with that since I’m entering their personal property and they are using manual means to collect the data. But using my personal electronic gear that I pay for? Nope.

Manufactured by a British company, Path Intelligence, this technology has already been used in shopping centers in Europe and Australia. And according to Path Intelligence CEO Sharon Biggar, hardly any shoppers decide to opt out.

“It’s just not invasive of privacy,” she said. “There are no risks to privacy, so I don’t see why anyone would opt out.”

They are not opting out because they don’t know about the program or they don’t want to be inconvenienced by having to turn off their phone.

For those of you in Temecula or Richmond, demand the mall change the program from opt-out to opt-in, or tell them you’ll shop elsewhere.

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Steve McGough

Steve's a part-time conservative blogger. Steve grew up in Connecticut and has lived in Washington, D.C. and the Bahamas. He resides in Connecticut, where he’s comfortable six months of the year.


  1. Lynn on November 23, 2011 at 1:45 pm

    Oh Steve, I find this highly invasive of my privacy and it could be used by government in the future to make cases against entirely innocent people. I know this sounds paranoid, but already the RICH are being targeted by unruly angry people (children can we say Occupy Wall Street and various other venues). So can Community Organizers use this technology and say, “Look at those rich people going into Brooks Brothers, Lexus Dealers,? and Tiffany’s, it’s OK to rob them, they have robbed the downtrodden masses” .? Instead of tingles I get chills.? OK, I will shut my mind down and clean for the Thanksgiving Day Feast.
    Thank you Founding Fathers for starting a wonderful country and Thank you Troops for struggling through the morass of this administration to keep us safe. Amen

  2. Plainvillian on November 23, 2011 at 2:41 pm

    When paradigms of privacy and intrusion bump up against a new technology, might we need re-examine our Libertarian ideals?? If one surrenders 4th amendment rights when buying an airline ticket, it is not a stretch that one surrenders other rights when using a cellphone, is it?? Does the fact that one is at the hands of government and the other is a private entity make a difference?? As the separation of government and business is less and less defined, is the potential loss of freedom even more likely?? We live in interesting times.

  3. winnie on November 24, 2011 at 4:36 am

    And this is why I say that technology does not necessarily make things “better”…especially when it comes to marketing.? Small signs at malls are ignored across the world…my guess is that they only put up these signs to avoid a lawsuit if their shenanigans were ever to be revealed and someone got a hair across their butt for what is most assuredly an invasion of privacy.
    Fortunately, I’m not a shop-a-holic and I pretty much despise the mall and the cell is nothing but an irritation so half the time I forget it in the glove box of my car, anyway.? Maybe I’m just getting old, but technology just doesn’t impress me the way it used to.? Now, who’s going to the mall on Black Friday? (definitely not me)? heheheheheeee

  4. ricbee on November 24, 2011 at 10:40 pm

    Who cares?

  5. JBS on November 25, 2011 at 9:59 am

    ?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????? BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING

  6. joe_m on November 25, 2011 at 10:40 am

    The old slippery slope. Soon some lawyer will?subpoena the information and use it in a court case. Then the government will be collecting it “for security” purposes.

    Yes JBS, Orwell got it right.

    They did this with the E-ZPass information. And if you think that “THEY” can’t use this information against you, you are naive.

  7. Murphy on November 28, 2011 at 12:24 pm

    ECHELON……… and more

    • Dimsdale on November 30, 2011 at 10:15 am

      And all of those “traffic” cams….


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