Whether you're perusing the produce section at your local Food Lion or standing in the aisle mulling which of the ever-expanding array of Cheerios to pick up, there's a chance someone will be tracking your every move: The Salisbury-based grocer is casting an especially watchful eye on its shoppers in a consumer research pilot program now up and running at two Food Lion locations, Supermarket News reports. Using 120 overlapping video cameras, the company is following individual shoppers around the store from the moment they enter, tracking their behavior and decision-making to - the chain says - gain deeper insight into what drives customers.
Stores have long used video cameras to prevent shoplifting and monitor hot spots around the building. But now some are taking it far beyond the security realm, raising privacy concerns, as a recent New York Times article made clear:
Such clips, retailers say, can help them find solutions to problems in their stores — by installing seating and activity areas to mollify children, for instance, or by lowering shelves so merchandise is within easy reach.
Privacy advocates, though, are troubled by the array of video cameras, motion detectors and other sensors monitoring the nation’s shopping aisles.
Many stores and the consultants they hire are using the gear not to catch shoplifters but to analyze and to manipulate consumer behavior. And while taping shoppers is legal, critics say it is unethical to observe people as if they were lab rats. They are concerned that the practices will lead to an even greater invasion of privacy, particularly facial recognition technology, which is already in the early stages of deployment.