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Commentary Who's Watching Who?


BRADENTON -- In a world engrossed with surveillance and intelligence gathering, one can expect to be fascinated with dragon fly and killer-bee sized drones that can listen and photograph without being detected. We were then later introduced to robots without a remote pilot, that are programmed to access and act on situations in realtime without assistance. But wait until you meet your new neighbor. He or she lives in a window near you and is looking at you eye to eye and could tell a few things about you, that even you didn't know.

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But Can You Trust Her?

This holiday season stores are hiring, but it is doubtful many of us qualify for the job. The hours are long -- 24/7. You can't ever sit down, there are no lunch breaks and the boss decides what you wear. They are hiring mannequins and they don't just stand around and look good; they look and look and look.

Equipped with cameras for eyes and face recognition software, your new best friend can tell how many times you have been in the area, what you looked at and didn't, what you were wearing and who you were with. It profiles the passer-by's race, gender and age group.

The EyeSee equipment, sold by Italian mannequin maker Almax SpA, is not unlike that at the airport or what is often used in police surveillance. But in those circumstances, the use of the equipment is usually displayed, and not stored on a continual, anonymous, data-base storing information on the public.

Already, a second generation of mannequins are being built -- ones that look like dogs or cats, that can smell and record audio. But a lot of controversy and legal issues are following in the footsteps of those. 

Regardless to how far retailers will go in their endless quest to better their sales, new questions about privacy and misuse will determine the overall value of these new neighbors. But don't be surprised if 1984 is back in style the next time you go shopping.



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