Tuesday, November 29, 2011
MALLS BACK DOWN ON TRACKING SHOPPERS BY CELL PHONES
We reported earlier that the Promenade Temecula in southern California and Short Pump Town Center in Richmond, Va., launched a survey on Black Friday, tracking shoppers' movements by monitoring the signals from their cell phones. The original plan was for those malls to continue the survey through New Year's Day, but after receiving a phone call from Sen. Charles Schumer's office over the weekend, they put the survey on hold.
The technology used antennas set up around the shopping centers to anonymously track shoppers as they moved from store to store. Customers were notified of the survey via small signs, and the only way for them to opt out was to turn their phones off.
In a press conference on Sunday, Sen. Charles Schumer said the malls should have given shoppers the choice to opt-in.
"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," the New York senator said in a statement. "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."
While the Cleveland-based mall management company, Forest City Commercial Management confirmed that it tracked shopper data on Black Friday, it said it now plans to pursue an easier opt-out option for consumers.
"We have temporarily suspended further trial of the technology while we work with the system developer on possible enhancements, and in deference to concerns raised by Senator Schumer," the company said. "We look forward to meeting with the senator and his staff, together with the system developer, to further explore his concerns."