The US is importing a bit of foreign technology this Black Friday, but it's probably not the kind you'd like to see more of. Path Intelligence's FootPath location tracking system is being introduced in two American malls on Friday, with the express purpose of logging detailed location data for each cellphone-equipped shopper that enters the premises. The data collection is anonymous and doesn't attempt to identify you cellular number or any purchases you make, though it does paint an almost intimately accurate path of the route and time you take as you venture through the mall.
Promenade Temecula in California and Short Pump Town Center in Virginia, two malls operated by Forest City Commercial Management, are the ones introducing the FootPath system for the holiday season. They'll operate it between Black Friday and New Year's Day, while JC Penney and Home Depot are also reported to be involved in discussions for implementing Path Intelligence's system. It's important to note, as the CNN report does, that user tracking is already operational in online stores and in physical malls — only the tools of the latter tend to be things like cameras, heat maps, and statistics taken from the counter. Additionally, the FoothPath system has been implemented in Europe and Australia already without much of a public backlash or any security breaches.
Nonetheless, the ability to track individual shoppers' location with the precision of this system will raise privacy alarm bells for some, which is why the two malls have introduced signs notifying visitors of their right to opt out. All they need to do is switch off their cellphone. It couldn't be any more convenient, could it?