Snack food spies to infiltrate grocery stores in 2015

store aisle
Public Domain Bill Branson

Mondelez International, owner of Nabisco, Ritz and Oreo, plans to launch grocery store shelves that identify consumers and gather data. The displays should reach stores by 2015, and would be able to discern the basic features of shoppers, such as age, sex and facial structure. Weight sensors would detect which products are selected. Although the technology won't store images of individuals, The Washington Post reports aggregated data will help the company target customers:

"The company expects the shelf to help funnel more of the right products to the right consumers, and even convince undecideds to commit to an impulse buy by offering well-timed in-store commercials or coupons when the embedded weight sensor learns they've picked up an item. The move is almost certain to make it more difficult to resist junk foods."

It's unclear if the cameras will be noticeable to shoppers, no doubt raising concerns in the larger debate about surveillance. Robin Sreeves at our sister site MNN points out that customers deserve to know when they're the target of a marketing campaign:

"It’s important that we’re aware of insidious marketing schemes like this. It’s good to know when you’re being targeted; it helps you to make informed decisions. I also think that as consumers, we do have the power to influence the stores we shop in. If this is something that makes you uncomfortable, let stores know."