Beware: They are Watching You

Security camera in grocery store, close-up

By: Alima Mootoo

Stores are watching you, not only to prevent shoplifting, but to gather data. If you have the location turned on on your phone, stores can see when you enter their store and track how many times you do. Cameras watch your reactions to products and see which ones you prefer over others. The purpose of this is to get consumers to spend more.

If all of this is news to you, it’s probably because disclosure is poor to nonexistent, say experts familiar with these practices. Also, odds are you’ve never read or decoded what you’ve agreed to in bank, retailer, and app privacy policies, and you probably never imagined that retailers would be so interested in spying on honest shoppers. “While most consumers understand a need for security cameras, few expect that the in-store video advertising monitor they’re watching … is watching them” with a pinhole camera, says Pam Dixon, executive director of World Privacy Forum, a nonprofit research group in San Diego.

Facial recognition software is used to capture images of their customers and even collect their mugshots without them even knowing! They have even put pinhole sized cameras around the store to watch consumers as they look around the store, recording information such as the following; age, sex, race, and your facial expressions.

What’s in it for you: Stores use video customer counts to set staffing and reduce cashier-line backups. The system can also nab shoplifters and identity thieves and examine the veracity of slip-and-fall injury claims, keeping fraud costs (and prices) down.


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