Security Cameras. Stores

October 7, 2015
Security & Home Automation

High-resolution video cameras monitor all areas in and outside the store. The footage is then stored and catalogued for easy searching. With facial-recognition software, your mug shot can be captured and digitally filed without your knowledge or permission. Ditto for your car’s license plate.

What’s creepy about them: Gaze trackers are hidden in tiny holes in the shelving and detect which brands you’re looking at and how long for each. There are even mannequins whose eyes are cameras that detect the age, sex, ethnicity, and facial expressions of passers-by.

The video can be merged with a store’s other data, such as footage of you at the cash register plus the transaction details of what you bought, for how much, using what credit card. Your face and vehicle license plate can be linked. If that info is not securely stored, it could be hacked. Stores don’t provide sufficient disclosure, so you can’t opt out to protect your privacy. Last October, the Federal Trade Commission recommended clear disclosure to consumers, security standards for stored video, and customer opt-out or consent in certain circumstances.

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.

Who’s using them: “Most of the big chains are trying video analytics, ” says Robert Hetu, research director for retailing at Gartner, an investment research firm. But retailers want their own privacy. Macy’s, for example, employs video analytics, according to printed promotional materials from Cisco, a maker of such systems, but a Macy’s spokeswoman didn’t return our repeated calls for comment. A Target spokesperson refused to comment about the store’s use of video analytics and other tools, even though its privacy policy states that the retailer collects information “recorded by in-store cameras.”

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