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Intersection: Sidewalks & Public Space

Chapter by Melissa Ngo

"The Myth of Security Under Camera Surveillance"


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    Reuters: Big Retailer is watching you: stores seek to match online savvy

    Reuters reports on the increasing collection of data on individuals, both online and offline, by marketers and companies. Now, stores are deploying technology to gather facial features, track cellphones and more.

    BERLIN — The next time you walk into a shop, consider this:

    You may not be using your phone, but it is giving out a unique signal that the retailer may be monitoring. A face scanner may check your age and gender while sensors pick up your body heat to help locate popular parts of the store. [...]

    To counter the online threat, bricks and mortar retailers are playing catch-up, using increasingly sophisticated technology to improve staffing, layout and marketing.

    Some people are less comfortable being watched in the offline world, prompting many in the business to promise to use only anonymised and aggregated data unless shoppers explicitly give their permission to be tracked.

    But as retailers get more sophisticated and link the data they collect to loyalty card schemes, shoppers are starting to sign up to schemes that follow their movements in return for targeted discounts and apps that help them find products. [...]

    Tesco, the world’s third biggest retailer, drew criticism from British privacy groups earlier this month with plans to scan the faces of queuing customers to determine their gender and rough age to better target adverts.

    The company, which put the tracking of customer behaviour on a whole new level with its Clubcard loyalty card two decades ago, said it would not record images or store personal data. [...]

    Last month, a group of U.S. companies specialising in location data for retailers agreed to a privacy code of conduct which includes signs posted in store to alert shoppers to the use of tracking technology and instructions for how to opt out.

    “Even in an anonymous state, you can begin to pull together a profile of a customer, when they are coming to store, when they are mobile,” said John Sheldon, global head of strategy at consultants eBay Enterprise.

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