Digital Freezers with Iris-Tracking Cameras Now Spy On Shoppers for Nestlé, Walgreens, Coors and More

I hope you had a happy new year, “because I’m about to ruin the image and the style that you’re used to.”

Gone are the days when you sent your daughter to the store and worried that some creepy old man might upskirt her, because now retailers will do what no stalker could ever do — take iris and facial images of your kids while they buy ice cream or soda.

According to a recent article in The Wall Street Journal, Walgreens, food and alcohol distributors want to spy on shoppers who purchase items from refrigerated coolers.

  • Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc. is testing a technology that embeds cameras, sensors and digital screens in the cooler doors in its stores, a new network of “smart” displays that marketers can use to target ads for specific types of shoppers.


    Around 15 large advertisers have signed up to test the Cooler Screens platform, including Nestlé SA,MillerCoors LLC and Conagra Brands Inc.

    Cooler Screens, a company funded by Microsoft, uses face-detection technology to allegedly only detect a person’s age and gender. But as you will see, Microsoft is doing much more than just funding Cooler Screens.

    An article in The Atlantic explains that Cooler Screens analyze people’s faces and make inferences about their age and gender. The article goes out of its way to emphasize that Cooler Screens uses their Iris scanning cameras to measure and analyze the width of someone’s eyes, the distance between their lips and nose, and other micro measurements to estimate a person’s gender and age.

    What these articles fail to mention is how private corporations can use these cameras to spy on people in real-time.  Cooler Screens’ website reveals that retailers can study “shoppers behavior response to real-time promotions.” 

    Retail surveillance and customer identification is getting worse not better.

    Last year I warned everyone that retailers were using thermal imaging cameras to secretly spy on shoppers and Cooler Screens is no different. Cooler Screens’ “Product” page boasts that they use iris tracking and thermal imaging to identify shoppers.

    As I mentioned earlier, Microsoft is doing much more than funding iris and facial scanners, they also have a vested interest in Walgreens’ patients and their prescription records.

    Microsoft has access to Walgreens’ prescription records

    According to a recent AP news article, Microsoft has access to Walgreens’ patient information.

    The companies said Tuesday that they will work to improve care in part by using patient information and the Walgreens store network. The companies will aim to boost prescription adherence (profits).

    Right about now you should be screaming, why hasn’t the mass media questioned Microsoft’s obvious foray into retail surveillance?

    Are they jealous of Amazon? What do you think?

    The answer is as obvious as Gregory Jacob’s 1990 hit song “The Humpty Dance.” The lyrics which I quoted earlier went on to say, “I look funny but yo, I’m making money see.” And that is the one and only reason Microsoft has entered into the consumer spying business:  to make money.

    Corporate profits are slowly turning brick-and-mortar stores into mini-surveillance centers.

  • **You can read more at the MassPrivateI blog, where this article first appeared.**

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