The return of Toys “R” Us has been heralded by many. However, the praise falls short when it comes to the former toy giant’s new video surveillance, which some say, targets children.
In its new incarnation, Toys “R” has partnered with tech startup bt8a and analytics expert Retail Next to obtain information about its customers. The system’s ability to track the movement of shoppers to better understand their interests and cater to them is considered problematic, as many Toys “R” Us customers are minors, and there are laws in place to protect their privacy. As noted in a recent WIRED article, “Collecting information on kids is a highly sensitive issue, and US law carves out various additional protections or restrictions when it comes to minors.” In addition, informed parental consent is generally required.
A spokesperson for RetailNext has indicated that personal data of children is not obtained intentionally or retained, and that height parameters help ensure that children are not captured. However, this restriction is not a failsafe, given that children and adults vary in height.
The surveillance controversy has not stopped the momentum of Toys “R” Us, which just opened another store in Houston, Texas this past week. This new location is also outfitted with tracking equipment.