For those of us who have allowed even the smallest amount of modern technological convenience to be a part of day to day life, privacy is dead. Your social network accounts are constantly raked for data by government and corporate interests alike; the National Security Agency is able to access pretty much all of your communications data; and you constantly map out your interests, ideas, wants, desires and personality traits for anyone interested as you shift between computer and smart phone throughout the day.
Pretty soon, the lack of privacy will be strikingly evident not just in the technological realm, but also as you run everyday errands. The food giant Mondelēz International, the parent company of Kraft Foods, is preparing to launch “smart shelves” to gather intelligence on consumers and customize their shopping experience.
By 2015, strolling through the supermarket could mean being constantly sized up by a series of high-tech sensors to snoop in on the facial features of shoppers to determine their age and sex in order to suggest products and offer discounts to customers as they shop.
For now, the Mondelēz “smart shelves” won’t involve cameras, instead using sensors to shape together the likely age and sex, according to an article in The Wall Street Journal, which company representatives say should ease privacy concerns.
“The sensors use this data to alert the display to feature something that a teenage boy is more likely to buy, such as gum or a chocolate bar,” wrote WSJ’s Clint Boulton. “The shelves also use sensors based on Microsoft Corp.’s gesture-based Kinect for Windows technology and if the boy looks at the shelf long enough, the shelf’s display may play a video targeted for his demographic.”
Note from the Editor: Under the Obama Administration, the NSA, the IRS, and the State and Justice departments are blatantly stepping on Americans’ privacy—and these are just the breaches we’re aware of. I’ve arranged for readers to get a free copy of The Ultimate Privacy Guide so you can be protected from any form of surveillance by anyone—government, corporate or criminal. Click here for your free copy.
This isn’t the first or the creepiest approach to companies using technology to take knowing the customer to the next level. Some stores have begun testing facial recognition software to track customer habits and preferences.
Luxury Daily reported in July:
The software will scan customer’ faces as they enter the boutique. If the software recognizes a face in the database, an alert will be sent to the employees via computer, tablet or smartphone.
Once alerted of the shopper, the boutique employees will be able to access the customer’s clothing sizes, favorites and spending history.
NEC IT Solutions has been conducting software trials in designer boutiques and hotels in the United States, England and Asia. The company has not disclosed the retailers and hotels used in the trial.
While convenience may be the intended goal of the privacy-killing technology that could become a mainstay of the American consumer experience, the potential for it to become a dystopian nuisance is real. A world where the NSA is permitted to collect massive troves of innocent Americans’ data in order to protect the Nation from terror doesn’t seem all that far from one wherein Obamacare bureaucrats could be tasked with tracking individual food preferences in order to protect the Nation from obesity — and, perhaps, to punish unhealthy shoppers.