Some British Retailers Secretly Tracking Customers, Using Their Cellphone's Transmissions

A pair of British shopping centers is experimenting with a creative way to leverage consumer cellphones. The consumers are being surreptitiously tracked by the signals emitted by all mobile devices and a database notes when consumers "enter a shopping centre, what stores they visit, how long they remain there and what route they take as they walked around," according to a report in The London Times.

A spokesperson for the vendor behind the trials--Path Intelligence, of Portsmouth--said its equipment was just a tool for market research. "There's absolutely no way we can link the information we gather back to the individual," a spokesperson said. "There's nothing personal in the data." But their system does apparently grab a consumer's phone's unique IMEI number, which is found on all GSM and UMTS mobile phones. The carrier would theoretically have the data to match it to personally identifiable data.