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Black Friday shoppers beware: 'Big Brother' mannequins are watching

Mannequins_112112_optBY PAM LOBLEY
NEWJERSEYNEWSROOM.COM
NOW THAT’S FUNNY

Hitting the stores for some Black Friday bargains? Beware. The store mannequins may be watching you.

They’re not watching you to guard against shoplifting — that’s so last year. No, they are cataloguing your race, gender and age so that they can better “understand shoppers.”

In other words, increase sales.

New York Daily News reports that United Colors of Benetton is using “EyeSee,” mannequins with facial recognition software to glean information. The company then uses that information to cater to its customers. For instance, one store realized that many of its customers coming through a certain door were Asian, so they put Chinese speaking employees at that entrance.

The dummies are made by Almax SpA, an Italian company. So far they are used by mostly luxury brands, which is understandable because they cost $5,000 each. The mannequins are being used in four countries, including the U.S., mostly in the fashion industry.

The software does not capture or record any images, just statistics about age, race and gender. Still, it is just another step up the ladder of invasive tactics by retailers to increase personalization. In fact, Almax may be considering adding hearing to the seeing eye mannequins. This would enable them to pick up words customers use in conversation while shopping.

Privacy and anonymity are a dwindling privilege in our society. Shopping on the internet yields a treasure trove of personal information to retailers. Software tracks your credit card purchases. The TSA scans our “naked” bodies. Cameras at intersections record your traffic violations.

How do you feel? Do you mind if the mannequins are watching you?

Pam Lobley writes the “Now That’s Funny” column. Check out her blog: Better Living Through Chaos! Follow her on twitter @plobley.

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