Foot Path Steps in It - The UpStream

Foot Path Steps in It

posted Sunday Dec 4, 2011 by Scott Ertz

Foot Path Steps in It

Well, it turns out not everyone was so jazzed about the new technology from Path Intelligence, Foot Path, that allows retailers to anonymously track a cell phone's journey through a retail environment. To recap last week's report, The malls, owned and operated by Forest City, Promenade Temecula in Temecula, California and Short Pump Town Center in Richmond, Virginia, were trying out the new technology to survey shoppers behaviors in a way more accurate and anonymous than the old "give us your email and we'll send you a coupon" method.

As expected, people have taken offense to the concept of being tracked and after concerns were raised by US Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY), Forest City has decided to halt their testing of the equipment, at least temporarily. Schumer said,

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. 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.

To find out exactly what caused all of this and how the parties involved have responded, hit the break.

Mall management has said,

We have temporarily suspended further trial of the technology while we work with the system developer on possible enhancements, and in deference to concerns raised by Senator Schumer. We look forward to meeting with the senator and his staff, together with the system developer, to further explore his concerns.

In addition to his statements, Schumer sent a letter to the FTC to investigate whether this technology is even legal in the United States. My guess is that, when all is said and done, the technology will be classified as legal, as the phones are willingly connecting to the technology and, once connected, their signal strength is information that is owned by the devices.

Path Intelligence CEO Sharon Biggar told CNN Money she would love the opportunity to speak to Schumer personally and added,

We are simply seeking to create a level playing field for offline retailers, and believe you can do so whilst simultaneously protecting the privacy of shoppers.

So, what is your take? Is it an invasion of privacy or a level playing field for offline retailers? Let us know in the comments.

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