Profit appears to trump privacy yet again, with some shops fitting secret cameras in mannequins to spy on customers’ shopping habits. The technology has been available for almost a year, and is already being used in three European countries and in the U.S.
The EyeSee dummy holds a camera behind its eyes which feeds images into facial recognition software that logs the age, gender and race of shoppers. This information is then used to provide retailers with information that can be used to improve their marketing strategies. The makers boast: “From now on you can know how many people enter the store, record what time there is a greater influx of customers (and which type) and see if some areas risk to be overcrowded.
Many shoppers will see hiding cameras in mannequins as being nothing short of creepy. The use of covert surveillance technology in order to provide a personalised service is utterly disproportionate. Clearly, the fact that these cameras are hidden would suggest that the shops are fully aware that many customers would object to this kind of monitoring.
As with all forms of customer profiling, it is not only essential that customers are fully informed that they are being watched, but that they also have real choice of service and on what terms it is offered. Without that transparency, shops cannot be completely sure that their customers even what this level of personalised service. This is yet another example of how the public are increasingly being monitored by retailers without ever being asked for their permission.