Starting on Black Friday and running through New Year's Day, two U.S. malls -- Promenade Temecula in southern California and Short Pump Town Center in Richmond, Va. -- will track guests' movements by monitoring the signals from their cell phones.
"We won't be looking at singular shoppers," says the VP of digital strategy for Forest City, the management company for both malls. "The system monitors patterns of movement. We can see, like migrating birds, where people are going to.... We don't need to know who it is and we
don't need to know anyone's cell phone number, nor do we want that."
While the data that's collected is anonymous, it can follow shoppers' paths from store to store. Shoppers will be greeted by signs letting them know about tracking and telling them to turn off their cellphones if they want to opt out.
Expect this shopper data mining to grow in use. So, besides shutting off the phones, what can be done? Some have suggested tiny tinfoil hats for the phone, an iHat. Actually, shielding can be done, either do-it-yourself, or buy an off-the-shelf blocker. But that defeats the signal, and the incoming calls, so, in the end, there's little you can do except turn it off.
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