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Your favorite mall may be spying on you

Retailers are always trying to understand more about their customers. But how far is too far when it comes to learning about your shopping habits?

By Jul 15, 2013 11:11AM

This post comes from Shelby Bremer at partner site logoRetailers are always trying to understand more about their customers’ habits. 

Woman in mall with shopping bags © Paul Bradbury, OJO Images, Getty ImagesCompanies want to know what kinds of products you buy, how you purchase them, and why you buy, presumably so they can more effectively market to you.

But how far is too far when it comes to obtaining information about your shopping habits?

Retailers have long been devising ways to track consumer behavior, from security cameras to undercover shoppers.

But technological advances have enabled many malls to recently implement cellphone tracking systems for more precision and accuracy in their research.

In some malls, your behavior throughout the entire shopping complex may be monitored, from where you go to how long you stay there. Antennae installed throughout the mall collect data from individual phones to track movement, providing insight into traffic by store, time, entrance and day.

Representatives of both retail centers and tech companies alike posit that personal information (like phone numbers, names, or purchases) is not collected.

Rather, the companies say, consumer behavior such as where they walk and how long they stay is documented. 

But critics say that this system, which tracks consumers by individual identification numbers unique to each phone, is an invasion of privacy and a violation of consumer rights. 

The two shopping centers managed by Forest City both suspended use of this system in 2011 after Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) raised privacy concerns in a statement, saying, “Personal cellphones 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.” Schumer called for a mandatory opt-in process as well as an examination of this technology by the Federal Trade Commission.

Though this prompted the cancellation of this system for those two malls, there are currently no regulations in place for consumers to be notified of a tracking system as they shop.
Shopping centers that employ this technology may have signs posted throughout their complex, but currently the best (and only) way to opt out of this system is to turn your cellphone off while at the mall.

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Jul 15, 2013 3:58PM
Instead of wasting all this time and money watching us maybe the product producers would think of lowering prices and improving quality? Just a dream I guess...
Jul 15, 2013 2:24PM

Don't ask your "transparent" government!!! You won't get the truth!  Ask Mr. Edward Snowden!!!

Jul 15, 2013 3:55PM
Turn off your phone and pull the battery before you walk into the mall.
Jul 15, 2013 4:01PM
"personal cell phones are just that - personal."  Someone needs to tell NSA!
Jul 15, 2013 4:09PM

Insidious Agendas,

    Where in Hell will all of the surveillance, personal intrusions and electronic tracking end?.... if ever. Between our totally paranoid Orwellian government and the almighty profit-imperative agendas of the 'Fortune 500' corporations, there is absolutely no end in sight. We are very close to the point where the government will demand that a newborn baby be implanted with a 'data / tracking' chip before being allowed to leave the hospital so that the person's every single movement throughout life will be monitored, quantified and analyzed by Big Brother.

   The entire scenario bespeaks of a society of complete mass-control by an insidious cabal of all-powerful secret governmental agencies and global corporations whose agendas will remain totally unchecked and above the realm of any possibility of oversight. Similar to the Roman Empire from whom our Republic was modeled, the collective abridgement of any and all our original Constitutional rights in this nation has put us upon a path of self-destruction from within. We have met the enemy...and unfortunately, he is us.

Peace to all ~

Jul 15, 2013 7:10PM
This is nothing new, the internet does it already. Isn't it funny how you can look at air conditioners, for instance, and weirdly the advertizing starts showing a LOT of ads? Same thing happened when I went online to look at refrigerators, the advertizing was aimed at me. I'm sure many others have noticed this, too.
Jul 15, 2013 5:32PM

You are not the customer of smart phones.  You are the product.



Jul 15, 2013 4:32PM
big brother is here!!!  we seem to have less privacy everyday, either from Obama or the markeing morons!!!
Jul 15, 2013 4:18PM
Ok American public.  Get upset.  Write nonsensical tirades about how upset you are, because in five days, you'll have forgotten about it anyway and then you'll accept it later.  Keep watching your televisions, because that's what they want you to do.
Jul 15, 2013 4:09PM
Sorry folks but we reached the age of no more secrets....
Jul 15, 2013 6:18PM
If you don't want to be monitored and spied on,  go live in a country that hasn't developed far enough to allow the intrusions into your personal life.
Whatever expectation of privacy you thought you had in the US no longer exists.  That was before, when we had a constitution and a government we could trust.   This is now.
I don't have a cell phone,lol. I know we will all be forcefully tracked once we start getting chipped( only a matter of time before that) but as for now, they can guess where I am  the old school way
Jul 17, 2013 4:28PM
Lets see, every store has at least 100 Camera's then add in an average of two floor walkers per floor, plus they track every transaction you make or purchase and at the Grocery store those "Cards" give them permission to record everything you buy and use, though in reality the discounts you enjoy are generally the normal low price Wal-Mart has everyday. So they have been spying on us ever since they could record you shopping in the store following your from aisle to aisle as you look and handle merchandise and then as you pay for it...So how long has this been going on 20 years or more? So what is new in this story? Also now with the GPS Chip in you Phones I guess they can track you from place to place as a letter I just received from AT&T explains for all of those who own their devices unless you write them or go on line or call them they are selling your location information to advertisers with say a mile of where your Device is...Another reason why I have not upgraded my phone in 15 years,,no GPS..Lols..
Jul 17, 2013 12:21PM

awesome i could use an image consultant an interior decorator and

a house cleaner and chef,  perhaps they have a garden department to help with landscape

and if it's the retailer i'm thinking of he is way better than me at like everything.

Jul 17, 2013 4:32PM
Oh I forgot to add..The GOvernment is soon or already has, demanded that GPS chips be placed in your Driver License, Cell phone and they know who and where you are at every given moment and you thought all those Federal Workers Obama hired were to spy and protect us from the Enemy,,The Government is the Enemy under Obama and his Elite Filthy Rich Ruling Hordes of Liberal Demoncrat Politicians...
Jul 15, 2013 7:15PM

I actually like the idea of surveillance.  I don't consider it "spying"

perhaps this way the police can identify a child abductor and the like

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