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Toys “R” Us Says Tech Used to Spy on Shoppers Ignores Children

December 12th 19__Kristin Houser__Filed Under: Artificial Intelligence
Victor Tangermann

Eyes in the Sky

After closing nearly all of its stores in 2018, iconic toy retailer Toys “R” Us has risen from the ashes of bankruptcy to open two new stores in recent weeks, with a killer feature: the undead Toys “R” Us stores are equipped with sensors that track every move shoppers make.

Every Move You Make

In November, CNBC reported that software retailer B8ta had installed dozens of sensors powered by surveillance company RetailNext’s tech in the ceilings of both new Toys “R” Us stores.

The sensors would “monitor traffic patterns and shopper cadence, among other metrics,” according to CNBC, in order to provide Toys “R” Us and its partner brands with data on how the stores were performing.

Spy [on] Kids

Privacy advocates soon began questioning this use of spyware in a store frequented by children, and in response, a spokesperson for Toys “R” Us parent company Tru Kids told Wired that “the cameras do not register kids.”

As for how that might be possible, RetailNext spokesperson Ray Hartjen elaborated that the devices are “[generally trained to ignore] objects, including people, less than four feet tall.”

That answer is less-than-reassuring, though, given that, as Wired noted, a 10-year-old of normal height can be nearly five feet tall — so if you’re a parent worried about your kid becoming some brand’s data point, maybe just stick to buying toys online this holiday season.

READ MORE: Toys “R” Us Is Back — Now With More Surveillance! [Wired]

More on children’s privacy: FTC Slams TikTok With Record Fine for Spying on Pre-Teens