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Schumer: Don’t Track Shoppers Without Consent

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(source: High Gear Media)

(source: High Gear Media)

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Technology that uses shoppers’ personal cellphones to track their movements through a mall or store should not be used without their consent, U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer said Sunday.

Schumer said the British company that developed the so-called footpath technology should use an opt-in mechanism to give shoppers the choice whether they want their movements tracked.

“A shopper’s personal cellphone should not be used by a third party as a tracking device by retailers who are seeking to determine holiday shopping patterns,” said Schumer, D-N.Y. He added, “It shouldn’t be up to the consumer to turn their cellphone off when they walk into the mall to ensure they aren’t being virtually tailed.”

LISTEN: Schumer spoke with WCBS 880 about this technology

The technology was developed by Portsmouth, England-based Path Intelligence. It already has been used in shopping centers in Europe and Australia.

It uses antennas to capture the identification number assigned to each phone and track its movement throughout the stores. The technology can yield data such as how many Victoria’s Secret shoppers also stop at Starbucks.

Some U.S. malls and retailers have said they would start using the technology this holiday shopping season.

Two malls said they would use the technology on Friday, but Schumer’s office says the malls halted the program after Schumer raised concerns.

“We’re asking the company that puts out this technology and all stores and malls to opt in to require that if you’re going to track the consumer, they should have to give you permission, not simply shut off their cell phone because that’s not fair and that’s not right and most consumers would not even know that they’re being tracked,” Schumer told WCBS 880.

Path Intelligence has said the technology is not intended to spy on individual shoppers.

But Schumer said that if the data were hacked it could compromise personal information on shoppers’ phones.

In a letter to Path Intelligence CEO Sharon Biggar, Schumer urged the company to obtain the explicit consent of shoppers’ through an opt-in policy.

He also called on Federal Trade Commission Chairman Jon Leibowitz to examine how this new technology fits in with existing consumer privacy regulations.

“We’re asking the FTC if this technology actually violates existing laws on privacy and if it does, then obviously they will have to stop doing it,” Schumer said.

Path Intelligence did not return an email seeking comment.

Schumer has a history of targeting companies whose practices he considers to be in violation of consumer rights. He recently attacked a bill that would have given telemarketers the right to call personal cell phones.

What do you think of this technology? How far is enough for the tracking technology? Tell us your thoughts in the comments section below.

(TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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