This Christmas season may be more than a shopper nightmare with the crowds: stores are increasingly using high-tech tracking devices to “track shopper demographics.” But that has some privacy advocates up in arms.
Shades of George Orwell
“Discrete and sophisticated technology” is how it’s being labelled. For example, some department stores are using mannequins that have facial recognition cameras in their eyes. Retailers say that the high-tech information they gather helps them boost sales.
One creator of shopper tracking technology is Alfonso Perez. He built a system called “Shopperception” that is utilized by Walmart. It uses motion-sensored cameras to track a shopper’s product choice on a shelf and the time it takes to make a decision.
“We don’t store any information on anybody. We process the information real-time.” Perez declared. Brick and mortar stores say they need that high tech edge to compete with online retailers.
But retailers have been less than forthcoming about their use of sophisticated technology, which has some privacy advocates concerned. Joel Reidenberg, a professor of technology at Princeton University, said retailers have tried to keep the technology use quiet. “If the retailer is unwilling to be transparent with what they’re doing, the way they’re collecting information, how they’re using that information, it says they know their customers will be upset by it…We have to decide, do we draw the line?”
Some shoppers admitted in an article by CBS local in New York that they might change where they shop based on the knowledge that stores were gathering data about shoppers in such a covert manner.