Stores now tracking your behavior and moods through cameras and cell phones

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  • Retailers  across the globe are tracking shoppers without their consent
  • Technology  providers will not name the stores
  • Nordstrom  ended their use of this technology in May

By  Ryan Gorman

PUBLISHED: 18:50 EST, 15  July 2013 |  UPDATED: 19:28 EST, 15 July 2013

Add retailers to the list of groups tracking  the movements and habits of unsuspecting people.
In  an effort to gain the competitive advantage websites have had for years, stores  have begun tracking shoppers movements and moods through their cell phones and  with special cameras that can recognize facial expressions – without shoppers’ consent. Recent reports of this activity have raised privacy  concerns despite repeated assurances from merchants that no personal information  is collected from devices.
Some  the stores using the tracking technology are Benetton, Cabelas, Family Dollar,  Mothercare and Warby Parker according to reports. Nordstrom used the technology  last autumn in a pilot, but discontinued the program after public  outcry.

Tracking you: Nordstrom was tracking shopper movements through the WiFi signals in their cell phones until ending the program earlier this year 

Tracking you: Nordstrom was tracking shopper movements  through the WiFi signals in their cell phones until ending the program earlier  this year

Nordstrom stores posted signs telling  customers about the tracking program, but shoppers interviewed by a Denver TV station were unaware of it since the signs were placed in hard to notice locations, near  an entrance at floor level in one instance.
One  shopper told the station it was ‘scary’ and another called it an invasion of her  privacy.

Nordstrom and Nordstrom Rack were able to  track shopper behaviors via a smartphone’s wifi signal, which allowed the  retailer to analyse how long a shopper spent in a particular area and to track  shopper movements, as well as how many people that walked past the store decided  to walk in, according to a report by the New York Times.


Nordstrom stopped the pilot in May after  customer complaints became too numerous, according to reports.

John Fu a spokesperson for Euclid, the firm  who supplied the technology, told the station that his firm doesn’t identify  shoppers and declined to name other stores using the tracking tech

‘We never know the name or identity of a  particular consumer, so you know, we don’t identify the names of our clients  either,’ Fu added.

Not just in the store: Shoppers not even entering stores can be tracked with the technology 

Not just in the store: Shoppers not even entering stores  can be tracked with the technology


Stores want this information because they are  at a disadvantage to online retailers like Amazon that are able to track shopper  movements around the sites through the use of cookies, allowing the online  competitors to recommend additional products and show what other people who  bought one thing also bought.

Notice: This sign notifying shoppers they were being tracked was found by a Denver TV station - practically on the floor 

Notice: This sign notifying shoppers they were being  tracked was found by a Denver TV station – practically on the floor


‘Brick-and-mortar stores have been  disadvantaged compared with online retailers, which get people’s digital  crumbs,’ Guido Jouret, head of technology firm Cisco’s emerging technologies  group, told the Times.
Cisco is one of a number of vendors that provide  cameras to stores looking to track how long people spend in a given department,  which can tell them how to best organize stores or streamline individual  aisles.

RetailNext, according to the Times, combines  the power of video with the trail of cookie crumbs left behind by cell phones.  Their technology is able to not only track shopper movements, but also identify  repeat customers – without a phone even connecting to store’s WiFi network. This  is because phones looking for WiFi networks still send a unique identifier even  if they don’t connect to a specific network.
Stores are also using  cameras to analyze facial expressions and moods.
Synqera, based in  Russia, uses facial recognition at store checkouts to tailor marketing based on  gender, age and mood, according to the Times.
‘If you are an angry man of  30, and it is Friday evening, it may offer you a bottle of whiskey,’ Ekaterina  Savchenko told the paper.
Other companies allow people to opt-in and  provide some basic personal information that pinpoints them in a store  department and can send them coupons aimed at encouraging a purchase, something  at least one shopper who spoke to the Times liked.
‘I would just love it  if a coupon pops up on my phone,’ Linda Vertlieb said.

Mail Online was unable to reach any of the  stores or technology vendors named in this article for further  comment.

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