Are store mannequins spying on you? -


Are store mannequins spying on you?

From trendy clothes to eye-catching accessories, perfectly-styled mannequins display a store's latest fashions.

What mannequins are capable of doing covertly, however, is a game changer for retailers, and it has some shoppers on edge.  

Nearly every clothing department in the country has mannequins and, now, a few of these mannequins can actually see us!   

Cyber Expert Theresa Payton has done extensive research about how technology is allowing marketers to collect more data about shoppers.   

"It's all trying to figure out how to better market products to you, to get you to buy the products," Payton said.

Some retailers are using mannequins with tiny cameras fitted inside the eye to watch and record shoppers.

"It's not just about stopping shoplifting anymore, it's about tracking you in the store, how long you look at things, what you're doing," Payton said.

The Italian company Almax S.P.A. creates mannequins that use facial-recognition technology to collect information about a shopper's age, gender, race and the amount of time they look at a display.  

America Now's Jeff Rivenbark contacted Almax S.P.A. to find out which stores are using this technology in the U.S.

"I can't say which clients use it as they want to be unique and asked me not to tell their name," Almax S.P.A. CEO Max Catanese said in a written statement. "Their sales are growing thanks to these data. They have a competitive advantage and they want to leverage on it." 

Retailers say knowing more about you and your shopping habits will help them improve their services, but the bottom line is that it also boosts sales.

But Payton cautions that this type of snooping is an invasion of privacy.

"They're spying on you. They're looking at who you are. Now they can match that if they want to with facial recognition technology--this is Sally or this is Johnny. They're in the store right now,'" warned Payton. 

Payton says we should all be concerned about stores gathering data without informing their customers in advance.

"Did you give them permission to look up your name and your face in a database," Payton asked. 

So, what about permission to listen in on your conversations?

Almax S.P.A. confirms it is now working on a prototype that will not only see customers, but also eavesdrop on their conversations.

And Payton offers this bit of caution.  

"If you are in the store, just understand even though it may feel like you are by yourself, you are under surveillance and so any personal, confidential conversations you may be having over a SmartPhone or with somebody you're in the store with, just understand that somebody may unintentionally be snooping in on those conversations," and Payton added, "You want to make sure that you take the confidential conversations someplace else. Just assume because of the surveillance going on in the store, you are being watched, and you are being listened to."

Developers are also working to create mannequins that will one day have the capability to ask customers for their feedback to the clothing mannequins are wearing.

Copyright 2013 America Now. All rights reserved.

Additional Information:

The following information is from the Italian mannequin manufacturer Almax S.P.A. who makes the EYE SEE mannequins. 

  • The EYESEE "smart" mannequin was first produced in 2010.
  • The mannequin is the product of Kee Square and Almax.
  • The mannequin makes it possible to "observe" who is attracted by a retailer's windows and reveals important information about customers including their age range, gender, race, and number of people and time spent.
  • A special camera installed inside the mannequin's head analyzes the facial features of people passing through the front and provides statistical and contextual information useful to the development of targeted marketing strategies.
  • The embedded software can also provide other data such as the number of people passing in front of a window at certain times of the day.
  • From now on you can know how many people enter the store, record what time there is a greater influx of customers (and which type) and see if some areas risk to be overcrowded.
  • The information collected by the mannequins will allow you to evaluate the effectiveness of the exposure of your windows and at the same time improving, for example, the service provided by the store personnel.
  • These data will tell you whether a product has attracted the attention of users, they will allow you to assess the attractiveness and effectiveness of your windows, and why not, to discover new target groups.
  • All this is in total respect of privacy protected by a sophisticated mix of hardware and software technology which processes the data without the aid of a computer and without having to record and transmit sensitive information (images or biometric data), and so without leaving any trace of the face analyzed.

The following information is from in an online article entitled "How Facial Recognition Systems Work" (Source:

  • Facial recognition software is based on the ability to recognize a face and then measure the various features of the face.
  • Every face has numerous, distinguishable landmarks, the different peaks and valleys that make up facial features. FaceIt defines these landmarks as nodal points. Each human face has approximately 80 nodal points. Some of these measured by the software include the distance between the eyes, width of the nose, depth of the eye sockets, the shape of the cheekbones, and the length of the jaw line.
  • These nodal points are measured creating a numerical code, called a faceprint, representing the face in the database.

The following information is from in an online article entitled "Camera-Equipped Mannequins Placed in Stores" (Source:

  • Some retail stores have reported set up mannequins with cameras embedded into one eye. The mannequins, called EyeSee, uses facial-recognition software to log age, gender, and race of the customers they see. The technology was originally meant to identify shoplifters, but why the need to identify race with that rationale is beyond me.
  • Thankfully, retailers such the Benetton Group have other ideas. The company uses EyeSee mannequins to personalize offerings of each store. For instance, one store found out that majority of their shoppers after 4:00 p.m. are Asian, so it fielded Chinese-speaking staff members by the entrance during that time period.
  • Manufactured by Italian mannequin maker Almax, the EyeSee has been available since last December and is currently used in three European countries and the United States, although major retailers like Nordstrom and Burberry have publicly stated they do not have such mannequins in their stores. Future versions of EyeSee might even have the ability to "eavesdrop" on what customers say about the mannequin's outfit.

The following information is from in an online article entitled "Mannequins Spy on Shoppers to Boost Sales" (Source:

  • The EyeSee mannequins from Italian firm Almax SpA use facial recognition software to identify the age, gender, and race of shoppers who pass them by. The data allows retailers to tweak their marketing strategies, according to Bloomberg News. Another store decided to place Chinese-speaking staff near a particular entrance after 4 pm each day once it learned that more than a third of its visitors entering there were Asian.
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