End the Lie

EyeSee facial recognition cameras deployed in mannequins record age, gender and race of customers

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By End the Lie

A promotion image of the EyeSee mannequin posted on the Almax website (Image credit: almax-italy.com/End the Lie screenshot)

As unbelievable as it sounds, facial recognition technology is now being deployed in mannequins. While this might sound completely insane, it’s not all that surprising given the rise of facial recognition systems capable of scanning 36 million faces per second, the FBI giving out facial recognition software to police and rolling out a $1 billion facial recognition system across the United States, not to mention drone-based facial recognition along with behavioral recognition and much more.

Indeed, the rise of this type of technology has become a global issue, evidenced by a facial recognition-based border control system in the Netherlands that is slated to process the one millionth passenger by the end of the year.

According to Bloomberg, the EyeSee system is sold by the Italian mannequin maker Almax SpA and is used to “glean data on customers much as online merchants are able to do.”

While this might seem innocuous enough, recently it was shown that the massive data mining industry mentioned in the above quote regularly sells the personal information they gather to third parties.

Almax Chief Executive Officer Max Cantanese told Bloomberg that as of now five companies are using a total of “a few dozen” of their mannequins and there are already orders for at least that many more with each mannequin costing around $5,130.

While many might claim this is wonderful as it will help better serve customers, some aren’t quite as excited by it.

“It’s spooky,” said Luca Solca, the head of luxury goods research at Exane BNP Paribas in London, England. “You wouldn’t expect a mannequin to be observing you.”

It’s especially concerning since it looks completely like an ordinary mannequin to the casual observer, completely hiding the technology within.

“A camera embedded in one eye feeds data into facial-recognition software like that used by police,” writes Andrew Roberts for Bloomberg. “It logs the age, gender, and race of passers-by.”

Solca is likely in the minority when it comes to this technology, as Uché Okonkwo, executive director of consultant Luxe Corp seemed quite excited by it.

“Any software that can help profile people while keeping their identities anonymous is fantastic,” said Okonkwo.

This technology “could really enhance the shopping experience, the product assortment, and help brands better understand their customers,” he added.

Bloomberg points out that similar technology is already deployed by some stores via overhead security cameras, but Almax claims that their technology is far superior since it operates at eye level and “invites customer attention.”

The mannequins, which have only been available for purchase since December of last year, are already being used by stores in three European countries along with the United States.

The stores actually using these mannequins will, at least for now, remain a mystery since Cantanese refused to name clients, citing confidentiality agreements.

Some are raising both legal and ethical concerns surrounding the use of this type of facial recognition and profiling technology.

“Watching people solely for commercial gain may break the rules and could be viewed as gathering personal data without consent,” writes Bloomberg, citing Christopher Mesnooh, a partner at law firm Field Fisher Waterhouse in Paris.

“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 said to Bloomberg. “If you’re walking into a store, where’s the choice?”

I can already see the arguments that would be used to counter Mesnooh’s quite valid point. One such argument will likely be the same type of argument used by those who promote the Transportation Security Administration’s invasive procedures: if you don’t like it, either don’t use it or shut up.

According to Cantanese, they have yet to run into any problems since, at least according to the company selling the device, all that is required is a CCTV license.

Perhaps even more disturbing than the technology already deployed in the EyeSee mannequins is the prospect of “technology that recognizes words to allow retailers to eavesdrop on what shoppers say about the mannequin’s attire,” which is already being tested by Almax, according to Bloomberg.

What is your take on this type of technology? Is it too invasive or simply a great way to personalize a shopping experience and streamline business practices? Let us know in the comments section of this post.

Did I forget anything or miss any errors? Would you like to make me aware of a story or subject to cover? Or perhaps you want to bring your writing to a wider audience? Feel free to contact me at [email protected] with your concerns, tips, questions, original writings, insults or just about anything that may strike your fancy.

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17 Responses to EyeSee facial recognition cameras deployed in mannequins record age, gender and race of customers

  1. End time servant November 21, 2012 at 6:35 PM

    Well this is really getting out of mind and out of controll daily weekly monthly insanity world wide it is going to explode just like they want to bringing in the one and only AntiChrist which nobody seems to care about until it is to late

  2. Anonymous November 22, 2012 at 1:40 AM

    yeah so I’ll never be going in a store again. thank God for online shopping!

  3. Garth Sears November 22, 2012 at 4:52 AM

    I can’t understand why Homeland In-Security would need .338 caliber (Lapua) rifle-sniper rounds, 5.56mm (M-16 rifle rounds) & 7.62mm (sniper rifle rounds) which are “silenced” or sub-sonic.
    At whom, exactly would Homeland Security need to fire a sub-sonic rifle round (used to kill w/o a discernable muzzle report)? This makes no sense whatsoever to use “silenced” rifle ammo for domestic/police operations.


    • Anonymous November 24, 2012 at 8:31 PM

      wouldn’t want to disturb the neighbors

  4. KEVIN November 22, 2012 at 2:05 PM

    Let us stop these mad capitalist, consumerist control and surveillance freaks before it is too late. Their profits and greed must not be allowed to destroy any privacy freedoms that we have left in this insane market world.

  5. Gloria November 23, 2012 at 3:42 AM

    I think it is no worse than having to give out email and twitter info….
    Whatever happened to the FCC? Aren’t there laws that prevent this from happening?

  6. margsview November 23, 2012 at 8:15 AM

    Boy it just keeps on getting worse. I stopped any connection to social media for this very reason. I don’t trust anything done in secrecy. Why not be upfront if they have nothing to hide. That is the same question individuals have had constantly thrown at them when more and more invasive eavesdropping technology is the expected part of being accepted as a consumer.

  7. KMD November 23, 2012 at 8:57 AM

    I have been told that if you a hippie type head band with little sparkling lights on it that it will virtually blind the camera. All that it will see is a a washed out area of the head.

  8. mike hunt November 23, 2012 at 10:31 AM

    In reality the facial recognition part is the software that the image is processed through.

    All one has to do is NOT look at the camera. Kinda hard though.

    • Joel November 23, 2012 at 2:44 PM

      if cameras are placed strategically there is literally no way you can’t get your face captured unless you’re wearing a full face covering or something (in which case security would sotp you and make you take it off anyways!)

  9. klem November 23, 2012 at 10:47 AM

    we have a right to privacy. i do not want to be tracked, listened to, observed, recognized, categorized, influenced, give my opinion, data based, counted or anything of the like. take your cameras and microphones and put them up where the sun does not shine.

  10. Anonymous November 23, 2012 at 12:57 PM

    There’s no way this technology was developed or is being deployed just to enhance the shopping experience for shoppers. How ridiculous to suggest there’s any anonymity when the whole thing is based on facial recognition! This is a mitary surveillance device sucking money (along with privacy, civil rights and dignity) from the private sector under the guise of a commercial application.

    • Joel November 23, 2012 at 2:46 PM

      yep, has nothing to do with shopping or bulls**t like that. it’s all about watching you, tracking you, putting you in even more databases…

  11. Nora November 25, 2012 at 8:16 PM

    Yep, Big Brother in mannequins is just another step in the march toward the complete obliteration of our right to privacy. Our credit files are sold for huge profits without our permission, our DNA is filed away without our permission, and every new technology they come up with is about covertly observing and cataloging us. Commerce is a lame reason to spy on us. We deserve our privacy. I don’t go shopping, I don’t do Facebook or Twitter and I leave my phone at home if I have to go somewhere. I threw my REAL-ID chipped drivers license in the garbage, where it belongs. I won’t participate in this data collection as long as I still have a choice.

  12. Scott November 26, 2012 at 6:15 AM

    If you get the time to watch the documentary, “Big Brother, Big Business”, made back in 2006, you’ll learn that as of then, there were over 4,000 companies in the US that profit from cataloging information about people.
    It shows the example of Home Depot, who has this technology. From the moment you drive onto their property, software for the camera tracks your every move….the speed of your car…how long you take to pick a parking spot…how long you sit in your car after parking…analyzes your gait as you walk to the door…and when you get close enough, it maps your face….then follows you around the store.
    Try this: Go to Home Depot and find an aisle and just stand in one spot. That behavior automatically triggers “possible shoplifter” in the computer.

  13. Anonymous November 28, 2012 at 9:10 PM

    this is beyond creepy wtf good thing i can shop online although you’re still tracked there ugh

    guess we should just shop at goodwill and thrift stores etc. they wont ever buy these lol

  14. Pingback: EyeSee You « critical thinking

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