WKYT Investigates: Tracking shoppers' habits

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) They can help protect you while you shop. But those surveillance cameras you see in stores and malls can do a lot more than just look for criminals.

You may not realize, some of the camera can even track your shopping habits.

When you walk in some stores, new surveillance systems can tell your sex, how long you spend where, what you're looking at, and what you buy.

"If you're not looking happy -- and they can track from your previous moves that you buy chocolate when you're coming in the store at a certain time of day -- they can send you a coupon to your phone that says, ‘Hey, feeling down? How about some chocolate?" says shopping analyst Fred Phillips.

For some time now, advertisers have been able to track your online buying habits. They know what you bought, when and how much you spend. Experts say that same idea is going from the desktop to the department store.

"So this allows them to say these must be popular products," says David Hogue who is a retail psychologist who says such technology not only helps businesses but customers too.

"How do we arrange them in the store so that their movement through the store gives them exposure to additional products in which they might be interested," said Houge.

Kroger is using surveillance now too in a slightly different way. Cameras installed at entrances to track the number of customers in the store have cut waiting times in the checkout line from four minutes to 26 seconds, according to the grocery retailer.

So whether they're watching to save you time or mapping your movements to get you to buy, when you see a camera it's not just for crooks anymore.

Experts say some stores are using the same surveillance technology that was used by the Soviet KGB and different government agencies.

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