High-tech dummies to record conversations
Paul Joseph Watson
November 21, 2012
Just when you thought it was impossible for surveillance to get any creepier, a company has announced it has created mannequins with cameras installed inside that can be used to spy on shoppers and record their conversations – and that they’ve already been rolled out at numerous fashion stores across the world.
The EyeSee mannequin, developed by Italian firm Almax, relies on technology used to identify criminals in airports that utilizes facial recognition software to identify the race, age and gender of the shopper and feeds that information back to a centralized database. The camera is embedded in the eye of the mannequin.
The company refused to divulge which retailers were using the mannequins, but acknowledged that they were already being used in three European countries and in the United States. CEO Max Catanese added that five major luxury fashion retailers had deployed “a few dozen” of the mannequins, with orders for many more.
The company is planning to update the technology inside the $5,000 dollar mannequins to enable them to listen in on shoppers’ conversations as they walk around the store.
The surveillance devices are ostensibly used to build a profile of what type of shoppers are entering the store, at what times and what they are looking at. However, privacy campaigners expressed concern that the technology was just another example of the commercial sector turning to Big Brother in a bid to increase profits.
“Keeping cameras hidden in a mannequin is nothing short of creepy. The use of covert surveillance technology by shops, in order to provide a personalised service, seems totally disproportionate,” said Emma Carr, deputy director of civil liberties campaign group Big Brother Watch.
“The fact that the cameras are hidden suggests that shops are fully aware that many customers would object to this kind of monitoring,” she added.
Lawyer Christopher Mesnooh also pointed out that since there is no warning that customers are being recorded, the mannequin spies could represent a violation of privacy laws.
“If you go on Facebook, before you start the registration process, you can see exactly what information they are going to collect and what they’re going to do with it,” Mesnooh told Bloomberg. “If you’re walking into a store, where’s the choice?”
What’s next? Is DARPA going to animate the mannequins and turn them into security guards that spring to life to apprehend shoplifters?
Shopping is becoming the front line of cutting edge invasive surveillance in a myriad of different ways, from RFID tags in clothing to airport-style naked body scanners that help shoppers decide if clothes fit – as well as firing radio waves at their skin that health experts have warned could damage human DNA.
Earlier this year, Redpepper, a company based in Nashville, TN, announced that it had created a Facebook app thatworked with facial recognition cameras to identify customers as they entered bars and shops and then delivered discount coupons to their mobile phone.
Although the company behind the spy dummies claims the technology is “blind” and will not be used to identify individuals, despite the fact that the same technology is already being used to identify individuals in airports, how far away are we from the kind of nightmare scenario depicted in the following scenes from Minority Report?