‘Booty Cams’ and Other Weird Ways Stores Spy on Us

Malls and retailers are watching us in ways you might not believe.


Some stores are now using cameras in dressing rooms — so you can more easily look at your own butt, they say. But what if others are, too? That’s what Consumer Reports is worried about.

It says Industrie Denim and American Rag are two companies already using the cameras, supposedly so customers can check the (visual) fit of clothes and reduce the number of returns.

One California Bloomingdale’s has a full-body scanner that takes “100 measurements of your body to create a 3-D model,” all the better to figure out which premium jeans would look good on you. This “body map” is saved online where you (and possibly others) can refer to it later, and the company that makes it plans to expand to other places soon.

The article in Consumer Reports’ ShopSmart magazine mentions strange spying methods, including the peeping mannequins we told you about in November. Not just mannequins, but ad displays and even shelving may contain pinhole cameras, which can use facial recognition software and can track age, sex, ethnicity, expression, and how long your gaze rests on any particular product.

Malls can track your smartphone signal over Wi-Fi or through your phone’s unique International Mobile Subscriber Identity number, which is regularly sent to your phone provider. This lets them map foot traffic and, individually, when people visit. Cisco is testing a system that automatically invites phones onto a free Wi-Fi connection and can then monitor when people use their phones for price comparison, ShopSmart says.

It seems hypocritical, given that many stores don’t want us using our phones to take photos or video inside.

It’s not just retailers, either — hotels also spy.

Stacy Johnson

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