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Privacy statement - Terms and conditions

planning the retail mix – mobile phone signals used to monitor consumer movement

6 January 2012

Go to the Princesshay shopping centre in Exeter and you will find signs reading: “To improve our customer service we monitor the use of mobile phones to help show us how this centre is used by its customers. No personal data is stored at any time.”

Footpath is a system marketed as a “unique breakthrough product” providing 24/7 monitoring of pedestrian behaviour using mobile phone technology. Use of the system in shopping centres enables the centre to gather information to help understand, amongst other things, which retail sites are complementary, shopper flow volumes and flow and the potential value of advertising space. Shoppers too benefit from better retail mixes and more effective planning around centre bottle-necks.

But, civil rights campaigners think otherwise. Tracking mobile phone signals without consent is, they cry, an invasion of privacy. No express consent is given but also no personal information is collected. Only when mobile phone providers cooperate with data collectors will there be any real threat to privacy.

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