News & Opinion | April 25, 2019 11:42 am

Stores Might Add Cameras That Can Guess Your Personal Information

In-store cameras used to just keep shoplifters at bay, but now it's getting personal

Retailers want to know everything from your mood to your gender to bombard you with ads when you shop
Retailers want to know everything from your mood to your gender to bombard you with ads when you shop
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Brick and mortar stores want to make your shopping experience feel more like the internet — by secretly collecting your personal data and bombarding you with targeted ads. 

The new technology is being pitched to retailers, featuring cameras that will try to guess the age, gender and mood of customers, NBC News reported. The system will then use that information to blast targeted ads on in-store screens.

Companies are pitching the new technology as a way for physical retailers to better compete with online sellers, who, as we all know, already have a fat digital file on each and every one us and our shopping habits.

Naturally, the new technology has raised some privacy concerns among consumers, especially considering many of them may not even notice the minuscule lenses.

“The creepy factor here is definitely a 10 out of 10,” Pam Dixon, executive director of the World Privacy Forum, told NBC. According to Dixon, the technology could lead to discriminatory sales practices, such as raising prices for an older customer or advertising anti-depressant medication to a customer the cameras have identified as sad.

Meanwhile, advocates of the technology argue it could benefit customers by providing a more personalized shopping experience and drawing their attention to discounted products that have been personally selected for them.

Right now, the cameras are being tested in a handful of stores, including six Walgreens locations in New York, Chicago, San Francisco and Bellevue, Washington. The cameras, installed on the doors of coolers, can try to guess ages and track irises to see which products customers might be eyeing. However, Walgreens reportedly told NBC those functions are not currently on, and the cameras are only being used to sense when someone is in front of the door and to count how many customers pass by.

“All such enhancements will be carefully reviewed and considered in light of any consumer privacy concerns,” the company told NBC.