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Originally published January 2 2014

Retailers track shoppers with hidden cameras in eyes of mannequins

by J. D. Heyes

(NaturalNews) Americans know that we live in a surveillance society, driven home by the fact that the National Security Agency has been essentially capturing every bit of metadata it can from all of us all of the time.

But we knew before that we were being "watched," given all of the traffic cams, street cams and satellite surveillance we deal with on a regular basis.

What's interesting about this story, however, isn't that retailers are watching us when we shop; it is the manner in which some stores keep an eye on us that is, well, different, as reported by CBS New York:

Big Brother could be at your favorite store.

As CBS 2's Don Champion reported, a growing number of stores are using discrete and sophisticated technology - including mannequins with facial-recognition cameras hidden in their eyes - to track shopper demographics in an effort to boost sales. Retailers say the marketing data technology allows them to cater their business to customers better, but it's also raising privacy concerns.

Ah, yes. Those quaint little "privacy concerns." The Fourth Amendment never looked so good, or mattered so little.

'Hey, other systems are more intrusive'

This "unique" surveillance system, called Shopperception, was built by Alfonso Perez and has been utilized by Walmart. According to specs on the system, it links motion-sensors to cameras that then track a shopper's product choice on a particular shelf, as well as the time that it takes for the shopper to make a decision. Perez told CBS New York that his business has doubled in the past year - which means, of course, that your friendly neighborhood big-box retailer cares more about selling you stuff than protecting your constitutional rights.

"We have evolved in the way in which we want our products tailored to our liking," Perez said.
"The brands and retailers are using this information to learn about us, to learn about what we like," he added.

So, seriously - privacy just doesn't matter anymore? Stores can rip off personal intimate shopping habits at will, even if we don't want anyone else to know what they are?

As you might expect, most of the developers of this kind of invasive technology don't think they're doing anything wrong. They don't say their systems are not intrusive - only that they are less intrusive than "everyday surveillance" such as street and traffic cams.

And besides, says Perez, "We don't store any information on anybody. We process the information real-time."

Tell it to the NSA, Perez. And if you don't store info, how can you match shopping habits to shoppers - in "real time?"

Nevertheless, Perez and others argue that such high-tech systems are vital, because it is becoming more difficult for brick-and-mortar retailers to compete with the online sellers (who also track shopping habits).

'Where do we draw the line?'

Joel Reidentberg, a professor of technology at the University of Princeton, said retailers have - understandably - tried to keep mum on the use of the technology.

"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," Reidenberg said, adding: "We have to decide, do we draw the line?"

CBS New York reported that the technology is definitely causing some shoppers to change where they buy.

"Still think it's an invasion of our humanity and who we are as people," said Bella Milizia.

"It's a little creepy," another woman told Champion.

But as usual, some Americans - constitutional illiterates - don't see anything wrong here. And for the same old reason - lack of guilt.

"You know what, if you're an honest person and you're not up to anything in the store, I think it's fine," said Janet Sternson.


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