Shopping centres to track your movements through your mobile phone

The next time you go to the shops, your mobile phone could be used to gather research for the shopping centre. Sound a little creepy?

Developed by British company Path Intelligence, the technology picks up on the signals your phone sends out. Specifically, the technology picks up on what Path describes as a “random signal” and that this technology does not allow the company to “obtain your telephone number, to listen to any of your calls, read any SMS messages read or sent by you, or to log details of any calls or SMS messages made or received by you”.

Instead, the technology has been designed to inform owners of shopping centres where you spend time and how you progress through the mall, essentially giving the operators of these centres a form of research based off of your movements.

A phone is just a phone. There’s no information being sent other than the fact that your device is a phone. The centre can’t determine if you’re male, female, what your hair colour is, or even who you might be talking to or texting at the time.

In America where the trial of this technology is happening, the owner of the shopping centres is suggesting that shoppers turn off their phones if they don’t want to take part.

Another option is to not shop at the centre where the technology is running, but therein lies the catch: the shopping centres aren’t required to tell you about this system.

Because everything is behind the scenes and there is no legal precedent – yet – there is nothing you can do about it.

The fact of the matter is that most of us simply won’t turn off our phones. We could be shopping for anywhere between ten minutes to four hours, and that’s a long time to be disconnected in a world increasingly dependent on being connected, on being in reach of a phone.

For the American shopping centres that had planned to put this into trial, a snag has been hit. According to news today, a politician has raised concerns about the technology, with Senator Charles Schumer citing that “Personal cell phones are just that – personal” and that “if retailers want to tap into your phone to see what your shopping patterns are, they can ask you for your permission.”

With this new development, the company running the trial – Forest City – has put these plans on hold for the moment.

Australians, however, may have to soon deal with this technology, as GadgetGuy’s Valens Quinn reported on Sunrise this morning that “rumour has it that there’s already a shopping centre in Queensland that’s trying this technology right now or coming up very soon.”