Friday, November 25, 2011

Attention Black Friday Shoppers: You Will Be Tracked

John Galt
Activist Post

The busiest shopping day of the year is set for a new level of consumer exploitation at two American malls.

A notice appearing at Promenade Temecula in California, and Short Pump Town Center in Richmond, Va. will advise shoppers that their cell phone signal will be used to track them as they move from store to store. 

Although the system that is being employed claims it is guaranteed not to collect personal data, and people can opt-out by turning off their phone, we have heard this all before when justifying why it is OK to track, trace, and database the movements of everyday citizens.

According to a CNN report:
"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 is supposedly being done, of course, to identify which stores and items people desire most, thus enhancing the shopping experience for store customers.  This is the very same reason that was presented to encourage people to sign-up for "loyalty cards" and "frequent-shopper" cards.  However, as we have come to find out, these systems of convenient shopping are more accurately described as data collection systems that can be used to profile people's shopping habits, their physical movement, as well as for other uses far beyond the scope of the shopping experience.

This overall database of collected information has been used in numerous cases by law enforcement to establish the time and place of potential suspects, which has sometimes caused innocent people to be caught in the dragnet as a result of ordinary purchases that may suddenly look suspicious to law enforcement mining the data.

We know that there has already been a push by Federal agencies to employ warrantless cell phone tracking, so we can't reasonably expect the validity of reassurances by mall management that the system, "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."  An article by Declan McCullagh at CNET News states more accurately the following:
Whether state and federal police have been paying attention to Hollywood, or whether it was the other way around, cell phone tracking has become a regular feature in criminal investigations. It comes in two forms: police obtaining retrospective data kept by mobile providers for their own billing purposes that may not be very detailed, or prospective data that reveals the minute-by-minute location of a handset or mobile device.
Obtaining location details is now 'commonplace,' says Al Gidari, a partner in the Seattle offices of Perkins Coie who represents wireless carriers. 'It's in every pen register order these days.' (source)
The Federal government is also fighting a recent Texas ruling declaring warrantless wiretapping to be a violation of the Fourth Amendment.  So these are supposedly the "protectors" to whom we should surrender our data.

And in case one believes that store management really holds the customer in the highest regard and cares deeply for their shopping experience, the following quote should reverse that thought immediately.  Vice president of digital strategy for the management group of both malls, Stephanie Shriver-Engdahl, makes it quite clear how her group views shoppers:
The system monitors patterns of movement. We can see, like migrating birds, where people are going to.
The specific technology is called FootPathTM  and utilizes data collection and mapping to chart physical movements and behavior patterns, offering a service to mall management that promises to help them make more accurate business decisions (demo here).  Again, this is one of the principal reasons given by the providers of customer loyalty cards.

As an aside, the U.K-based company that developed this technology -- Path Intelligence -- also employs tracking within transportation systems such as airports and trains, even going as far as determining "What nationalities are the passengers passing through the transportation hub?"

None of this technology is necessarily bad in-and-of itself, but time and again we have seen its dual-use capabilities being exploited by law enforcement and government agencies which has resulted in innocent people being subjected to the data dragnet.

Whether knowingly, or unknowingly, the companies that offer this technology -- and the establishments that implement it -- are aiding and abetting the eradication of privacy, as well as the manipulation of human decision making.

And this is what it is really about: total surveillance being used to predict behavior in order to enrich and empower those who own the technology, and to disempower the individuals on the receiving end.  It is merely one more data point in the overall matrix of information used by corporate-government groups to reduce human beings to numbers.

This cell phone tracking program, running from Black Friday to New Year's day, is clearly a test run for a system that will be rolled out on a much wider scale in the months and years to come if we don't oppose it from the outset.  We must resist by reconnecting with our local communities and shun any store or institution that views its customers as traveling information sources, or a time will come when we won't even be notified that we are permitted to opt-out.

If you would like to voice your outrage over this tracking program, please contact the management company for both malls, Forest City Commercial Management, by clicking the home office indicated by a star on the map HERE.

You may also want to contact any of the stores that reside within these two malls to tell them you refuse to shop at their store while you are being surveiled.  Pressure on individual stores might ultimately be more effective, as they will undoubtedly complain to management for the loss in sales due to the policy of management.  Management tends to listen well to those who are paying the rent.

Promenade Temecula: HERE
Short Pump Town Center: HERE

10 Ways We Are Being Tracked, Traced, and Databased


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Anonymous said...

Cuz I feel like a number, I feel like a number. A stranger in this land.

Anonymous said...

If you're not trampled by the hordes first.

Anonymous said...

It may seem crazy but the Bible gives clear answers concerning the events that are now taking place in our world and what they mean. Be informed and check out

Nana Baakan said...

I think that this article is bringing up some serious issues, that really need to be paid attention to. Being of African decent, and growing up in this culture along with my friends and family who are also of African Decent.. the cry for reparation is loud and long. We have had a serious cultural annihilation due to the displacement of Africans into a foreign land. On the other hand, there is duplicity on all parts/all of our Ancestors have had something to do with this. It is left upon us as their descendants to make a difference. Reparation can be as big as "giving back the land" and as small as changing one's perspective about what imperialism can do to any people, anywhere. I believe that if the "Occupy Movement" is to have any long term impact it must be honest and in your face, not only to the banksters, but to every person who blindly participates in making that 1% the 1%. We have to take responsibility for our consumption and participation in the desecration of our planet and its inhabitants.

EIA said...

Please consider folks, that this is no special occasion. For cell phones to function, they must also double as geo-locators. If you have a phone and it's on, you are being tracked. And that is still only one aspect of this situation. Aside from extensive dossiers of your migratory habits, other things like voice biometrics are subtly applied. And your data is saved, mulled over by AI, sold, and archived.

From black Fridays to blue Mondays, you are being tracked. Even having a phone registered under an anonymous name and payed for in cash will make no difference.

You see, ..consider the exclusively unique nature of your social network. All that is necessary to identify you is that very network. For example, no one else in the world calls the exact same people that you do. No one else calls from the same towers as you do either. That data in itself - which you'd better believe is logged - is all it takes to identify you uniquely; a sort of behavioral fingerprint.

And of course those who read Activist Post should be well aware that some phones actually save your location logs in hidden directories for the convenience of law enforcement - which you also should remember - needs no warrant to access.

Perhaps the reason we don't have RFIDs crammed up our backsides is simply because we carry a far more efficient tracking device - The Cell Phone.

The reality of the situation is that you will have to go extra lengths and exert much effort to protect your privacy, unless you abstain from such technology altogether. Even deactivating your phone is debatably ineffective. If this article left an impression on you, let it set in deep, and accept it as your daily norm. Whether local retailers or multinational market researchers, government or voyeurs, it makes little difference. We are being tracked. And if we wish to stop it, we'll have to get really busy.

Anonymous said...

I did my part. I found out i can live without my cell. i did fine before i had one.

Paul Panza said...

Has anyone considered that those being tracked should have the right to charge a fee for the collection of their private data and that their is a danger from the EMF's of the tracking equipment, towers and cell phones. I have personally been responsible for keeping microwave towers out of certain areas.

Activist said...

That is an excellent point, Paul! We do inherently own the information that we divulge -- albeit unwillingly many times. This extraction should come at a price . . . monetary at the very least. Thanks for the comment.

Anonymous said...

Of all days to see how the mainstream sheeple are controlled and led by the corporate oligarchy, today is the day. Millions of useless, cheap pieces of plastic shit from China will be purchased today, having little or NO impact on creating jobs in this country or improving the economy. Thus all the profits will be channeled to the "1%" corporate overlords, to big to fail banks etc.

I totally belive in the generosity of the holiday spirit but shouldn't we purchase gifts that assist our country and fellow workers? I have read countless examples of ways to purchase things made in this country, made by artisans/craftpeople, gift certificates for small business restaraunts, beauty shops etc.

If you are protesting/resisting the current garbage going to fail system, why would you support them with your hard earned money? Please be smart this holiday season, every time you open your wallet try and find creative ways to make sure the money helps create work in this country. Our holiday spending can have an impact such as the 650,000 people that transferred money from banks to credit unions recently. The wallet is a powerful voting mechanism

EIA said...

Slight correction in above post: I had intended to express not that "no one else uses the same towers", but more so that no one with the SAME social network uses the same towers too. Basically, each caller (user) has a unique calling pattern which is enough to identify them. And yes, even the times at which you have a tendency to make your calls are factored into their calculations. And again, cellphones MUST track you in order to function. This is a commonly misunderstood fact, and the larger debate is not about this; but it is more so about the retention of this tracking data, and its abuse, etc.

What I am hoping people will realize is that aside from this fine and informative article, the situation is actually far worse than portrayed, and certainly not limited to specific occasions. And I personally would be far less concerned about being tracked by retail outlets than by those who want much more than money. Although I am opposed to any form of un-consensual tracking, I find retail greed more predictable than social-engineering, or ...DARPA?. By the time we all wake up and understand this, such tracking will no longer be optional; It will be standard and enforced.

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