Big Brother is Watching You in the Supermarket

Recently one giant supermarket came under fire as it launched its new face scanning software that differentiates between males and females at the till.

Supermarket checkout

The software, developed by Lord Sugar's company, aims to separate customers into sex and maybe age in a bid to show them promotions and offers that are relevant while they wait in line to pay.

At SurveyCompare we know how important customer feedback is, our survey companies give retailers incredible insights into what the consumer wants and they can only do this with the help of you and your opinion. The more a retailer learns about its customers, the more likely they are to satisfy them, which in turn brings more business and more profit, it also increases consumer loyalty which is the big buzz phrase of e-commerce at the moment.

There are benefits for the consumer too of course, the more satisfied a customer is, the easier life becomes. It can be seen as a win-win situation so why have these face scanners caused such a furore?

The Argument

Many shoppers declare that it's a complete invasion of privacy but if we look at the technology already in place it really isn't any worse than what's already out there. Maybe it's because Tesco have been so candid about the new technology and consumers are suddenly realising the power of consumer analysis.

Supermarket checkout

Others believe that it has the potential to cause huge offence. For instance the ads could show a portly gentleman products for pregnant women or a woman with cropped hair promotions for men. Tesco have probably thought of this already though as face scanners don't just use features to assess gender, they look at body language too.

Current Technology

There's already a lot of customer analysis technology on the market that delves deeper than face scanning, the outrage over the scanners shows that many consumers are completely unaware of this, yet retailers and ecommerce have cleaver ways of maximising sales based on the data they collect when watching your behaviour in store or online. For instance:


Technology includes footfall, not just how many people gravitate towards a particular point of a store but the speed of their pace, the length of time they linger, the specific product they look at. This is all recorded and sent back so retailers can see what works and what doesn't. They know where to place the products they want to sell the most of and they know the areas to avoid.


Already there is technology in place that separates shoppers by gender. Analysing body language and facial features cameras are put near new displays, or new products to determine the target market by sex. Face scanners are no different.


If you take your shopping online, you give ecommerce sites the tools to find out everything about your habits. From your lifestyle to your annual income to your family situation to your age. Every product you look at creates a picture where they can analyse results and target campaigns specifically to you.

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This is just the tip of the iceberg and as technology progresses further, more tools will become available. As consumers we can't avoid it if we want to enjoy the convenience of tailor made offers and increased shopping speed. We can however keep up to date with developments so we know how our information is being used.

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