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    Update: Malls Stop Tracking Cellphones of Shoppers

    Recently, there were reports about two malls (Promenade Temecula in southern California and Short Pump Town Center in Richmond, Va.) seeking to use individuals’ cellphones in order to track their locations as they shopped. I noted how the opt-out choice was practically useless — shoppers could opt out of being location-tracked by turning off their mobile phones, rendering themselves out of touch in case someone needs to contact them for everyday or emergency reasons. The malls have decided to stop the tracking after receiving scrutiny from Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), reports CNN:

    Two malls are axing their plans to track shoppers’ cell phones, after a U.S. senator raised privacy concerns over the weekend. [...]

    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.” [...]

    Schumer sent letters to Path Intelligence, the U.K-based manufacturer of the technology and Federal Trade Commission Chairman Jon Leibowitz. Schumer wants the the FTC to examine the legality of the technology, under U.S. privacy regulations.

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