Privacy concerns over mall tracking: safeguards needed now

Plans to track visitors of Brisbane’s Queen St Mall have renewed privacy concerns around commercial tracking systems[1]. Pirate Party Australia says that while anonymous tracking has commercial benefits, there must be strict limitations around how such systems work, including independent privacy impact assessments and transparent operation.

“The major concern here is to ensure that customers know they are being tracked and how,” said Simon Frew, President of Pirate Party Australia. “We must ensure forms of monitoring are carefully examined so that members of the public are informed and can feel safe. Tracking itself is not the problem, and there are certainly many positive outcomes of anonymous and voluntary tracking systems.”

“There is a need to assess the impact such systems have on privacy, and to confirm they are operating in the way intended. It should also be necessary to meet minimum data security requirements to make sure that only anonymous data is collected and that access is restricted in case something goes wrong.”

In August of 2013, the ABC reported that the use of tracking technologies in shopping centres was set to increase[2].

“It is evident that systems to track customers’ movements will be implemented at an increasing rate, and safeguards should be developed alongside systems, not after them,” Mr Frew continued. “As we are seeing increased usage, now is the best time to introduce those safeguards. The use of these technologies has great potential to improve business and customer experiences, but it is important to inform customers that tracking is being used and to reassure them that the data collected is purely anonymous.”

In assessing the privacy policies of various Australia political parties, the Australian Privacy Foundation awarded Pirate Party Australia the highest score of 89/100 at the last Federal Election[3]. The Party’s position on privacy can be found here