Plaza tracking on cell phones has KC shoppers concerned

Cindy F. Cape

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The owner of the Country Club Plaza has hired a technology company that uses shoppers’ cell phone data to estimate foot traffic numbers.

On Tuesday, it was obvious the nice weather with the pandemic winding down meant businesses were cashing in.

The company that owns the Plaza, Taubman, said the recent numbers after omicron are proving that. It hired the tech company, Placer.ai, to study foot traffic.

It uses your smart phone data to estimate the crowds.

“We don’t see personal information,” said Ethan Chernofsky, Placer’s VP of Marketing. “We get data from app partners, we anonymize it, it’s anonymized at the app level, we get this data purely to run our algorithms and make the estimations.”

Chernofsky said they don’t reveal which apps they work with but said no one under 18 is tracked. He said that’s assured at the app level.

On Wednesday, FleishmanHillard, which handles public relations for the County Club Plaza, stressed that the Plaza itself is not tracking shoppers’ cell phone data. Placer works with app partners to estimate foot traffic, which is then shared with Taubman.

Country Club Plaza shoppers had mixed feelings on Tuesday.

“There could be people on the corner surveying or asking people, and people aren’t going to stop.” Sharon Prothe said. “What are our other options? This is a digital world.”

“I could see the reason why [they’re doing it], but I probably would pass on it,” David Zachery said.

Technology expert, Burton Kelso, said you can opt out by turning off location services in your apps or putting your phone on airplane mode while at the Plaza.

“That’s spooky,” Kelso said. “That’s pretty darn scary. There should be full disclosure. There’s always concern whenever someone’s peeking into your phone.”

FOX4 took those concerns back to Placer.

“Understand what data is being used for,” Chernofsky said. “There are some platforms that want to look at you as an individual, and bring you the best product, and those are going to be focused on the individual information that you have. There’s other companies that are really just interested in bringing in data so that they can make estimations, so there is no personally identifiable information in the system.”

In statement, Taubman said in part: “Placer.ai provides our teams with anonymous, aggregated insights, including data on traffic counts, on customer cross-shopping habits and information on where customers live.”

Placer, a startup, began in 2018. It now has 1,000 customers nationwide.

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https://fox4kc.com/news/plaza-tracking-kc-shoppers-smart-phones-to-analyze-foot-traffic/

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