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Facial recognition is tracking customers as they shop in stores, tech company says

  • Retailers and malls are installing technology to track customers and collect data about consumer demographics, an IT company says
  • Facial recognition technology is used to identify a customer's gender, age and ethnicity, according to Mark Lunt, group managing director at Jardine OneSolution

Retailers are using facial recognition to collect data about customers as they shop in stores, according to an IT company with insight into the space.

"One of the big things brick-and-mortar retailers are getting into now is knowing their customers ... tracking who's entering their mall and how they're behaving," said Mark Lunt, group managing director at Asia-based Jardine OneSolution.

JOS works with the retail sector on facial recognition to profile customers that enter and track their movements.

The data collected include "how many people are coming in, age, ethnicity, gender — it's all about knowing the foot traffic better and trying to serve more appropriate offers to those customers," Lunt said.

Customer identities are kept anonymous and it might even benefit shopping experiences in the long run. According to JOS, its projects include adjusting store music to coincide with the customer's mood.

However, there are limitations for retailers on how the accumulated data is being used and protected.

"Technology is not the barrier to the systems being implemented, it's privacy concerns, it's cultural concerns," said Lunt.

The idea of having sensors and cameras to collect data about shoppers is the defining privacy issue of the age, he said, explaining that retailers are investing considerable amounts of money into securing data and preventing data breaches.

In light of news about Uber's recent data breach, Lunt said, businesses have to be incredibly sensitive. At the same time, customers should be careful about with whom they're entrusting their data.