January 11, 2012
By Sean Poulter
Shopping centres have triggered a Big Brother row after installing equipment that allows them to track customers using their mobile phone signals.
The technology has raised privacy concerns after it emerged that major shopping centre owner Land Securities has installed it at ten of Britain’s biggest malls.
These include the giant Cabot Circus, Bristol; Gunwharf Quays, Portsmouth; Princesshay, Exeter; Buchanan Galleries, Glasgow; Bon Accord & St Nicholas, Aberdeen; and The Centre, Livingston.
A tiny yellow sign in Exeter’s Princesshay shopping centre is the only warning customers receive that their mobile phone signal is being ‘tracked’ by Footpath’s scanners. There is no way to opt out except not to enter or to turn off your mobile
Path Intelligence, which developed the system in the UK, said it includes safeguards to prevent spying on individuals and that no personal information is collected.
Rather, it is designed to track people’s movements to better understand what shops and services they find most interesting or useful.
However, most shoppers are completely in the dark about the tracking technology, and the only way to escape it is to turn off the mobile phone.