From article below…
“The system monitors patterns of movement. We can see, like migrating birds, where people are going to.”
Malls track shoppers’ cell phones on Black Friday
By Annalyn Censky @CNNMoneyTech November 22, 2011: 11:48 AM ET
NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — Attention holiday shoppers: your cell phone may be tracked this year.
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?
While U.S. malls have long tracked how crowds move throughout their stores, this is the first time they’ve used cell phones.
But obtaining that information comes with privacy concerns.
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.
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.
The system can’t take photos or collect data on what shoppers have purchased. 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.
“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.
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.”
Now, U.S. retailers including JCPenney (JCP, Fortune 500) and Home Depot (HD, Fortune 500) are also working with Path Intelligence to use their technology, Biggar said.
Home Depot has considered implementing the technology but is not currently using it any stores, a company spokesman said. JCPenney declined to comment on its relationship with the vendor.
Why Apple and Google need to stalk you
Some retail analysts say the new technology is nothing to be worried about. Malls have been tracking shoppers for years through people counters, security cameras, heat maps and even undercover researchers who follow shoppers around.
And some even say websites that track online shoppers are more invasive, recording not only a user’s name and purchases, but then targeting them with ads even after they’ve left a site.
“It’s important for shoppers to realize this sort of data is being collected anyway,” Biggar said.
Whereas a website can track a customer who doesn’t make a purchase, physical stores have been struggling to perfect this kind of research, Biggar said. By combining the data from FootPath with their own sales figures, stores will have better measurements to help them improve the shopping experience.
“We can now say, you had 100 people come to this product, but no one purchased it,” Biggar said. “From there, we can help a retailer narrow down what’s going wrong.”
But some industry analysts worry about the broader implications of this kind of technology.
“Most of this information is harmless and nobody ever does anything nefarious with it,” said Sucharita Mulpuru, retail analyst at Forrester Research. “But the reality is, what happens when you start having hackers potentially having access to this information and being able to track your movements?”
Last year, hackers hit AT&T, exposing the unique ID numbers and e-mail addresses of more than 100,000 iPad 3G owners. To make it harder for hackers to get at this information, Path Intelligence scrambles those numbers twice.
“I’m sure as more people get more cell phones, it’s probably inevitable that it will continue as a resource,” Mulpuru said. “But I think the future is going to have to be opt in, not opt out.”
Update… “Recording virtually everything people do with them”….
Stealthy cellphone software stirs outcry
By JORDAN ROBERTSON and PETER SVENSSON Dec 2, 7:43 PM (ET)
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) – Technology bloggers are asking if our cellphones are spying on us after a security researcher said a piece of software hidden on millions of phones was recording virtually everything people do with them.
Amid a broad outcry, Sen. Al Franken (D- Minn.) is calling for an investigation. A class-action lawsuit has been filed against the software’s maker, Carrier IQ Inc. of Mountain View, Calif.
The software, which Carrier IQ says is used on some 150 million mobile devices, appears relatively innocuous. It does watch what owners of Sprint Nextel Corp. (S) and AT&T Inc. (T) smartphones do with them, including what people type and the numbers they dial. But it doesn’t seem to transmit every keystroke to the company. Instead, it kicks into action when there’s a problem, like a call that doesn’t go through, and it lets the phone company know.
“It is software that is developed in partnership with carriers with the intent to improve network performance. As far as we can tell, it meets this description in execution,” said Tim Wyatt, principal engineer at Lookout, a cellphone security company.
Carrier IQ says the data its software gathers is stored by the phone companies or at Carrier IQ’s facilities. It doesn’t sell the data to third parties. Phone companies, of course, already are custodians of a wealth of private information, including whom you call, where you surf and what your text messages say.
The brouhaha started a few weeks ago, when a programmer named Trevor Eckhart documented Carrier IQ’s workings with videos on his blog. The software company threatened him with a lawsuit if he didn’t take the information down. The Electronic Frontier Foundation took on Eckhart’s case, and the company backed down.
Eckhart posted another video this week, showing Carrier IQ’s software logging keystrokes on an HTC EVO 3D from Sprint.
A central privacy worry is what kind of data Carrier IQ is retaining.
Andrew Coward, a Carrier IQ vice president, said the software doesn’t record every keystroke or send information about all of them back to the company. The only keystrokes it cares about are specific administrative commands, including those instructing the software to phone “home.” The rest it discards, Coward said.
“We never expected to need the content of SMS messages, so we didn’t code for it,” Coward told The Associated Press in an interview.
Apple Inc. has said it has stopped supporting Carrier IQ in most of its products. Separately, the company came under fire last year over location-tracking features of the iPhone and made a software change to keep data on users’ movements for less time.
For now, there’s no easy way to uninstall the Carrier IQ software without unsanctioned third-party software. Coward said it is “too early to tell” whether the company will make any substantial changes to the software because of the uproar.
Svensson reported from New York.
They will be able to make loans to you, but you won’t be able to make loans to them. They will be the head, and you will be the tail…