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Retailers Go High-Tech To Track Shoppers

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Big Brother could be at your favorite store.

As CBS 2's Don Champion reported, a growing number of stores are using discrete and sophisticated technology -- including mannequins with facial-recognition cameras hidden in their eyes -- to track shopper demographics in an effort to boost sales. Retailers say the marketing data technology allows them to cater their business to customers better, but it's also raising privacy concerns.

Alfonso Perez built a system called Shopperception that Walmart has utilized. It uses motion-sensored cameras to track a shopper's product choice on a shelf and the time it takes to make a decision. Perez's business has doubled in the past year.

"We have evolved in the way in which we want our products tailored to our liking," Perez said.

"The brands and retailers are using this information to learn about us, to learn about what we like," he added.

But what about privacy?

Many developers of the technology contend their products don't cross the line and say they're far less intrusive than the everyday surveillance, such eye-in-the-sky cameras on the streets, that we've grown accustomed to.

"We don't store any information about anybody," Perez said. "We process the information real-time."

Experts argue that the high-tech marketing systems are needed more now than ever for brick-and-mortar retailers because of the increasing popularity of online shopping.

Joel Reidenberg, a professor of technology at Princeton University, said retailers have tried to keep the technology use quiet.

"If the retailer is unwilling to be transparent with what they're doing, the way they're collecting information, how they're using that information, it says they know their customers will be upset by it," Reidenberg said.

"We have to decide, do we draw the line?" he said.

Some shoppers admit the technology could change where they shop.

"Still think it's an invasion of our humanality and who we are as people," said Bella Milizia.

"It's a little creepy," one woman told Champion.

But not everyone was concerned.

"You know what, if you're an honest person and you're not up to anything in the store, I think it's fine," said Janet Sternson.

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(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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