advertisement
advertisement
advertisement

When Will Mall Tracking Make Sense? When It’s Not Anonymous

Written by Frank Hayes
November 30th, 2011

Maybe using mobile phone signals to track customers isn’t looking so sweet after all. On Monday (Nov. 28), two U.S. shopping malls said they stopped using a people-tracking system that used mobile signals, after the malls’ developer got letters from U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY), who threatened to call in the Federal Trade Commission to investigate the privacy issues. That’s despite the fact that the system is designed to be anonymous—and the system’s legality is untested.

There are some ironies in all this. One is that, with all the genuinely invasive customer-tracking technologies online and even in malls, the mobile signals used in this one really are anonymous to everyone but the mobile phone operators. Another is that if the system were actually targeting individual customers and the data were used by store associates, it might actually be more palatable to shoppers. After all, when location data is anonymously collected, it feels creepy. But when an associate knows you’ve already been to Wet Seal and Nordstrom, that just means she knows your tastes and can serve you better—or at least it feels that way.

The uproar is over the FootPath system from U.K. vendor Path Intelligence, which began use on Black Friday in the two malls: Promenade Temecula (halfway between Los Angeles and San Diego) and Short Pump Town Center in Richmond, Va. The owner of both malls said it received letters from Schumer (fortuitously, just after Black Friday) warning about the FTC investigation.

In a statement, Schumer said, “A shopper’s personal cell phone should not be used by a third party as a tracking device by retailers who are seeking to determine holiday shopping patterns. Personal cell phones are just that—personal. If retailers want to tap into your phone to see what your shopping patterns are, they can ask you for your permission to do so. It shouldn’t be up to the consumer to turn their cell phone off when they walk into the mall to ensure they aren’t being virtually tailed.”

Of course, third-parties Apple and Google routinely track phone users’ locations in detail for location-based services. (Google just announced a service that tracks each Android user’s location to within a few meters inside stores, shopping malls and airports.) Other third-party app developers have also been accused of tapping into smartphone geolocation data in real time without making it clear to the user exactly what’s being tracked—even if users have nominally given permission via a click-through license agreement when the app is installed.

Sorry, senator, but requiring an opt-in for location tracking is no defense of privacy, at least as long as nobody actually reads those click-through licenses.

Then there are the legal questions.


advertisement

Comments are closed.

Newsletters

StorefrontBacktalk delivers the latest retail technology news & analysis. Join more than 60,000 retail IT leaders who subscribe to our free weekly email. Sign up today!
advertisement

Most Recent Comments

Why Did Gonzales Hackers Like European Cards So Much Better?

I am still unclear about the core point here-- why higher value of European cards. Supply and demand, yes, makes sense. But the fact that the cards were chip and pin (EMV) should make them less valuable because that demonstrably reduces the ability to use them fraudulently. Did the author mean that the chip and pin cards could be used in a country where EMV is not implemented--the US--and this mis-match make it easier to us them since the issuing banks may not have as robust anti-fraud controls as non-EMV banks because they assumed EMV would do the fraud prevention for them Read more...
Two possible reasons that I can think of and have seen in the past - 1) Cards issued by European banks when used online cross border don't usually support AVS checks. So, when a European card is used with a billing address that's in the US, an ecom merchant wouldn't necessarily know that the shipping zip code doesn't match the billing code. 2) Also, in offline chip countries the card determines whether or not a transaction is approved, not the issuer. In my experience, European issuers haven't developed the same checks on authorization requests as US issuers. So, these cards might be more valuable because they are more likely to get approved. Read more...
A smart card slot in terminals doesn't mean there is a reader or that the reader is activated. Then, activated reader or not, the U.S. processors don't have apps certified or ready to load into those terminals to accept and process smart card transactions just yet. Don't get your card(t) before the terminal (horse). Read more...
The marketplace does speak. More fraud capacity translates to higher value for the stolen data. Because nearly 100% of all US transactions are authorized online in real time, we have less fraud regardless of whether the card is Magstripe only or chip and PIn. Hence, $10 prices for US cards vs $25 for the European counterparts. Read more...
@David True. The European cards have both an EMV chip AND a mag stripe. Europeans may generally use the chip for their transactions, but the insecure stripe remains vulnerable to skimming, whether it be from a false front on an ATM or a dishonest waiter with a handheld skimmer. If their stripe is skimmed, the track data can still be cloned and used fraudulently in the United States. If European banks only detect fraud from 9-5 GMT, that might explain why American criminals prefer them over American bank issued cards, who have fraud detection in place 24x7. Read more...

StorefrontBacktalk
Our apologies. Due to legal and security copyright issues, we can't facilitate the printing of Premium Content. If you absolutely need a hard copy, please contact customer service.