Malls Bust for Tracking Customers Via Mobile Phone
A former employee of Cadillac Fairview has revealed that he is aware of at least one of the firm’s Canadian shopping centres having a system installed to track mobile phone movement throughout one of its malls. The system was apparently put in place to surreptitiously collect market research data.
The employee, whose name has remained anonymous, worked directly for Cadillac Fairview security for over three years. He was responsible for supplying access for the system’s installation back in 2016, and has noted that the system would monitor and pinpoint where each mobile device went within the mall – and how long it remained in any given location.
Cadillac Fairview Remains Silent
The policy also brings up possible tracking of foot traffic using data like MAC addresses. These are unique numbers that identify any device that has Wi-Fi connectivity capabilities, including laptops, smartphones and tablets. It is also interesting to note that Cadillac Fairview has acknowledged in the past its use of facial recognition software in its malls to track the ages and genders of their shoppers without their knowledge.
Privacy commissioners are now investigating the use of facial recognition software at Calgary malls, and the company has suspended its use of mall directory cameras during the probe. The firm’s admission of using facial recognition software has come after a patron at one of its malls spotted software running on one of the directories at the Calgary-based Chinook Centre, posting an image of their findings to Reddit.
Full Disclosure Becoming Essential
Privacy experts have further revealed that the type of tracking technology in use has been around for years, noting that anyone who enters a property can be tracked by the signal and identifications of their mobile phones. The technology can reportedly even track exactly where each shopper goes, how long they stand in one particular spot for, and other highly specific information about their habits.
Other experts have also predicted that these technologies could bring about unintended consequences. Former Ontario privacy commissioner Ann Cavoukian noted that being able to opt out of this tracking procedure is the key to maintaining its integrity and preventing sensitive information from falling into the wrong hands.
Signage on malls informing patrons of tracking systems and how to opt out of them are also vital, helping Canadians to protect their personal identities and information as the world of technology evolves.