The goal is to track the movement of shoppers in order to better understand shopping patterns, thus creating improved marketing campaigns

The tracking of user activity via smartphones is not too uncommon these days. Apple was caught tracking iPhone and iPad user locations via an OS X app, Microsoft was sued for allegedly tracking user locations without consent in WP7, and Google's Android mobile operating system has apps that track and share user info as well.

Now, an Australian shopping center in Queensland will obtain fit receivers that track shopper's locations within two meters by identifying unique mobile phone radio frequency codes.

The shopping center, which remains unknown for now until it makes a public announcement when the system is up and running, will get the fit receivers from a UK company called Path Intelligence. This new tracking operation is called the Footpath system.

The receivers are attached to walls inside the stores and throughout the shopping center, picking up mobile phone transmissions and feeding the data to computer servers via the Internet to help the shopping center understand customer patterns. This system is being put in place to help the Queensland center develop better marketing campaigns and better understand which stores customers prefer and what they look to shop for.

According to Kerry Baddeley, Path Intelligence national sales manager, the names or phone numbers of mobile users tracked will not be accessed through the Footpath system. It simply logs the movement of the phone.

While Baddeley argues that the Footpath system is less intrusive than some current methods, such as image-monitoring where a system can tell if a person is male or female and collects data such as how long they stop in front of a certain item, privacy advocates in Australia are questioning the Footpath system's intent.

Dr. Roger Clarke, an Australian Privacy Foundation chairman, is part of the category who thinks this new system and other retail tracking devices are "seriously creepy."

But Timothy Pilgrim, Federal Privacy Commissioner, said this new system shouldn't conflict with the Privacy Act as long as it doesn't collect the individual's personal information.


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