The next time you're in Walmart or another large retailer, make sure you don't have you finger up your nose in front of a mannequin.

Ok ,maybe that's a little extreme. But a growing number of consumers and technology critics are concerned with digital cameras with facial recognition technology being used to track shoppers behavior and habits.   The stores say using the cameras, which are usually hidden in the eyes of store mannequins, tracks various shopper data.  The cameras record which shelves consumers pick from (product placement),  what their first choice was from various displays, and other behaviors.

   Alfonso Perez is the man who invented a system called Shopperception, which utilizes cameras in various areas, including mannequin eyes, to track our movements while selecting.   For years retailers have relied on focus groups and consumer feedback to determine where to best locate goods and services for maximum exposure. Perez says his system allows retailers to actually see if many of the long-time product placement beliefs actually work, such as locating certain brands at eye level in stores. According to CBS New York, Perez says:

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

Perez says his, and similar systems, are processed in "real-time" and no data is stored about consumers.  He says these small cameras are far less intrusive than outdoor surveillance, security, or traffic cameras in use for years.   But other critics don't agree. More from CBS New York:

"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,” Reidenberg said.

“We have to decide, do we draw the line?” he said.

Of the people CBS New York talked to in one store that uses Shopperception, the results were split about 50/50 as to whether consumers felt it was a creepy invasion of privacy, or if it was no big deal.  As one woman put it, 'if you're not doing anything wrong, or up to anything like shoplifting, I think it's fine.'


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