Two US malls have abandoned their plans to track customers via their mobile phones. This change of heart followed a call from US Senator Charles Schumer who publicly criticized the practice. The two malls, Promenade Temecula in California and Short Pump Town Center in Virginia, were tracking customer’s mobile phones and using that data to determine people’s shopping patterns.
Schumer blasted the malls for tracking customers without obtaining permission and for not providing an easy way to opt-out. Customers had to turn off their phone if they didn’t want to be tracked. Forest City Commercial Management, a mall management company, confirmed it collected mobile phone data on Black Friday, but has suspended the program after Schumer raised his concerns. The mall company is working with Path Intelligence, the company behind the tracking technology, to provide an easier opt-out method.
Sharon Biggar, CEO of Path Intelligence, pointed out that the system does not intercept personal data and saves only the wireless data anonymously. She also argued that brick and mortar retailers need this information to compete against online stores, which already track customers as they click through a site. Biggar told CNN Money, “We are simply seeking to create a level playing field for offline retailers, and believe you can do so whilst simultaneously protecting the privacy of shoppers.”