Henrico County VA

Short Pump mall suspends cell-phone tracking program

Short Pump Town Center and another shopping mall in California have stopped tracking shoppers' cell phone signals temporarily, following a request from U.S. Senator Charles Schumer of New York. CNNMoney was first to report the announcement.

Short Pump Town Center and the Promenade Temecula in southern California (both Forest City Enterprises properties) began tracking the cell phone signals of shoppers on Black Friday in an attempt to cull information about their habits. Though the tracking was done anonymously, it raised concerns among some shoppers and other observers who felt it still was a violation of privacy.

Both malls had put signs up on their properties to alert shoppers of the program and advising them to turn their phones off if they did not want their phones to be tracked. The malls planned to continue the program through New Year's Day.

"A shopper's personal cell phone should not be used by a third party as a tracking device by retailers who are seeking to determine holiday shopping patterns," Schumer said in a statement, according to CNNMoney. "Personal cell phones are just that -- personal. If retailers want to tap into your phone to see what your shopping patterns are, they can ask you for your permission to do so."

Forest City officials said that they have suspended the tracking program in order to work with its developer to address the concerns raised by Schumer and to discover if there are easier ways to allow shoppers to opt out.

Schumer had expressed concern that even though the malls were tracking shoppers anonymously, the possibility existed that the data could be available to hackers, who might then be able to connect to shoppers' personal information.
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