Two malls that served as a testing ground for the introduction of a cell phone tracking system of shoppers have been forced to temporarily suspend the program after a call from Sen. Charles Schumer over general privacy concerns, as well as the legality according to U.S. regulations.
As I reported previously, a UK-based tech company, Path Intelligence, was slated to work with U.S. mall management company Forest City Commercial Management to implement their proprietary FootPath system for the first time in American malls.
Both companies are responding to concerns and are now re-evaluating their methods. As Schumer notes, “the malls should have given shoppers the choice to opt-in.” Instead, the only method was to opt-out after seeing a notice posted in the malls and turning off the phone.
It is an encouraging sign that Americans are becoming alert to companies that aim to exploit their personal information and who have very little concern over privacy until called out by the public.
However, we must remain vigilant. As pointed out by CNNMoney who first ran the story:
While Black Friday marked the first launch of this technology in the United States, it has already been used in Europe and Australia, with very little backlash, Biggar (Path Intelligence spokesperson – Ed.) said. U.S. retailers including J.C. Penney (JCP, Fortune 500) and Home Depot (HD, Fortune 500) have also considered using the technology, she said.
Now would be a good time to use the exposure of these companies to contact Home Depot and J.C. Penny immediately to tell them you will not shop in any location where you will be tracked and added to a database. Or, better yet, move away from chain stores completely and support shops in your local community that value your business, not only your data.