Watch Out, Retailers Are Tracking Customers' Cell Phone Signals On Black Friday
Your local mall could be monitoring your cell phone signal this holiday season.
This Black Friday some malls in the US will be rolling out a new technology that allows retailers to track customers' cell phone signals while they're shopping, according to CNN Money. Retailers in Europe and Australia are already using it — and analysts expect it to take off nationally. This Friday the Southern California mall Promenade Temecula and Short Pump Town Center in Richmond, Virginia are going to be giving the cell phone monitoring a test-drive.
Some of the retail analysts CNN Money spoke with said that this shouldn't pose a huge privacy risk to shoppers, because cell phone companies fiercely guard the information that identifies the cell phone owner. They say that tracking the flow of shoppers in and out of the store is nothing new. Malls use security cameras, heat maps and even undercover researchers to find out what shoppers are responding to. They also point out that customers turn over way more information when they shop online.
"Most of this information is harmless and nobody ever does anything nefarious with it," said Sucharita Mulpuru, retail analyst at Forrester Research told CNN. But he added that the technology is not risk-free: "But the reality is, what happens when you start having hackers potentially having access to this information and being able to track your movements?"
Some of the analysts said that shoppers can "opt out" of this tracking method by turning off their phones, although the prospect of turning off your cell phone every time you enter a retail space doesn't feel like a great alternative. Mulpuru said as more retailers roll out this new technology, they will ask customers to participate instead of putting up a sign warning them that they're being monitored: "But I think the future is going to have to be opt in, not opt out."