They’re Tracking You — Around The Mall

Mobiles help UK malls track shoppers’ every move | The Register (via JimH):

Mobile phone tracking technology is being put to good use watching how punters migrate around a shopping centre, thanks to gear from Portsmouth-based Path Technologies.

By installing receivers around a shopping centre the company can pick up communication between handsets and base stations, enabling them to track shoppers to within a metre or two – enough to spot the order in which shops are visited. Two UK shopping centres are already using the tech, with three more deploying in the next few months.

This information is used to work out if shoppers are dropping in to visit one particular store, or doing the rounds of 15 different shoe shops before going back to buy the first pair seen. Retailers will pay good money for this kind of data, but while existing solutions are based on counting heads or asking questions of a selected few, watching where the phones go is far more useful.

Now the cell phone tracker tracks users anonymously, the company claims, because the only thing it can see is a Temporary Mobile Subscriber Identity (TMSI), which is a dynamic address that changes when users reauthenticate with the network (ie shut their phone off and turn it back on). So perhaps it’s not too different than somebody watching a person on CCTV or simply following them around — but it still doesn’t seem likely to sit well with a lot of people.

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