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How Stores Spy on You? Essay


Tamara Thompson is an editor and author with interests in diverse subjects, such as popular works, interpretations, criticisms, and juvenile works. She has done more than 58 publications. In “How stores spy on you”, there is a detailed account on how various shopping outlets use technology to monitor their customers’ shopping habits. The article relates to the privacy controversy that is a major issue in the most parts of the world.

Secret monitoring is unacceptable since surveillance is a crucial violation of citizens’ rights. However, the author points out that several shopping stores use various technologies to retrieve consumer data discretely without the consumers’ consent. Consequently, shopping stores in the United States should respect the privacy of their customers and allow the customers to shop without the fear that people are monitoring them secretly.


Although surveillance is crucial in shopping outlets, retailers should not use surveillance technologies to monitor their customers for other reasons. The author begins by acknowledging that retailers always monitor their consumers as they shop or surf for various items over the Internet. The article (“How stores spy on you”, 2015) points out that some of the personal details used by walk-in retailers to classify their customers include ethnicity, sex, age, mood, and body language.

The retailers may also pry into their customers’ bank account details. The main purpose of prying into customers’ identities, socioeconomic statuses, and their shopping habits is to find ways of convincing them to spend more in the stores. The article suggests (“How stores spy on you.”, 2015) that the main reason many individuals are unaware of retail outlets spying on their customers is due to poor disclosure by the retailers. The author also argues (“How stores spy on you.”, 2015) that the retailers exploit the customers’ failure to understand application privacy policies or the terms and conditions set by banks and retailers. Customers who agree to such terms give the retailers the freedom to spy on them as they shop in the retail outlets.

The article discusses several surveillance technologies used in monitoring customers, how the technologies work, how customers can benefit from such technologies, and some of the retailers who use such technologies. Some of the methods used to monitor customers include:

Spy cameras

The article notes (“How stores spy on you.”, 2015) that shopping stores install video cameras all over their shops to capture details about the customers and activities in the stores without their consent or knowledge. For instance, the cameras may monitor what specific customers buy, the amount of money they have, their ages, ethnicity, or sex. Such information may prevent losses due to identity theft or false claims and reduce time spent by customers in the stores.

Phone tracking

Retailers use different methods to monitor their customers using the customers’ mobile phones. For instance, the retailers may use IMEI and Wi-Fi numbers to track the customers’ activities. The primary concern with phone tracking is that retailers can use it to influence their customers’ shopping behaviors.

Video ads

The article (“How stores spy on you.”, 2015) also points out how retailers install pinhole cameras in onscreen video ads screens to monitor their customers. The main concern against video ads is that retailers may use such methods to use discriminatory pricing against some groups of customers.

Return rewards

Retailers use this method to prevent losses due to fraudulent claims. However, they also use statistical models to influence customers’ behaviors by offering short validities for the rewards and regulating the available rewards to the retailers’ benefit.


The author establishes a common ground with the audience by addressing an emerging issue that concerns many individuals. The United States Constitution points out that the right to privacy is a significant privilege to anybody living in the United States. Most consumers are worried about their privacy when they go shopping due to the high sophistication levels of the technologies used by retailers to monitor activities in their shops.

The loss of control over their privacy exposes customers to great risks of identity theft should hackers gain access to the retailers’ databases. The United States government proposed the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights Act (2015) to reduce the amount of customers’ information that retailers should obtain. However, the legislation has several weaknesses that reduce its effectiveness in protecting customers from surveillance by the retailers. For instance, the legislation does not define personal information concisely, and this allows the retailers to manipulate customers’ data to avoid to prosecution (Center for Democracy & Technology, 2015).

The legislation’s reliance on multi-stakeholder processes in the development of regulations protects the stakeholders that adopt such regulations from prosecution. According to Business Cloud News (2015), the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights Act may weaken data privacy policies in some states and prevent others from developing strong laws for the protection of consumer data.

The message in “How stores spy on you” is clear and succinct. The author begins by stating that retailers monitor their customers using different methods both in and around their shops. The article (“How stores spy on you.”, 2015) also provides a list of the common attributes sought by the retailers as they observe the customers. The article proceeds to describe some of the technologies and methods used in monitoring the customers using simple terms.

The author uses responses from various stakeholders to validate the arguments. For instance, there are views from Cisco’s Sujai Hejela to elaborate how the company uses mobile tracking to evaluate customers’ behaviors ((“How stores spy on you.”, 2015). Such evidence substantiates the author’s claims and makes the article more authoritative. The author uses formal and fair language to explain ideas, and this makes the article easy to understand. The author offers the arguments in a logical and well-organized manner by explaining the surveillance technology or method, and then highlighting how the method is invasive. The article also informs the readers how customers can benefit from the different surveillance methods and the retailers using such techniques.


I concur with the author that monitoring the buying behaviors of customers in retail outlets is unacceptable and must cease. Retailers should use technology to enhance the shopping experiences of their customers rather than spying on them. As Aegerter (2013) notes, marketing companies use data from their customers to improve their service delivery although data collection has become invasive in recent times. I also agree with the author of the article under analysis on the risks involved in accessing customers’ personal information such as bank details because it exposes customers’ to great financial losses.

Siwicki (2014) points out that most customers do not trust the retailers in regard to the safety of their personal data. However, I feel that the author of “How stores spy on you” fails to highlight the dangers involved in spying on customers. I believe that retailers may face litigations if they lose their customers’ personal details. Consequently, the author should have discussed how the retailers also stand to lose from spying on their customers. However, the author does well to highlight an issue that the society continues to overlook despite the high risks involved.


Consumer data privacy is currently a crucial issue in most parts of the world due to the constant threat posed by identity thieves and the financial implications involved. The article’s strength is the use of simple and clear language to address a critical issue facing consumers in the United States. However, the article’s weakness is absence of a comprehensive analysis of the issue. For instance, it would have been better to address in the article how the retailers risk when they spy on their customers.


Aegerter, M. (2013). Stores use technology to ‘spy’ on customers. Web.

Business Cloud News. (2015). US consumer Privacy Bill of Rights doesn’t not go too far enough, critical supporters say. Web.

Center for Democracy & Technology. (2015). . Web.

.” (2015). In T. Thompson (Ed.). Domestic Surveillance. Farmington Hills, MI: Greenhaven Press. Web.

Siwicki, B. (2014). Consumers just say no to in-store mobile tracking. Web.

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"How Stores Spy on You?" IvyPanda, 23 June 2020, ivypanda.com/essays/how-stores-spy-on-you/.

1. IvyPanda. "How Stores Spy on You?" June 23, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/how-stores-spy-on-you/.


IvyPanda. "How Stores Spy on You?" June 23, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/how-stores-spy-on-you/.


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IvyPanda. (2020) 'How Stores Spy on You'. 23 June.

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