Walgreens Cooler Screens fridge door tracking, advertising

Released: January 2019
Occurred: March 2022

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Walgreens and other US retailers are increasingly using Cooler Screens digital screens in place of traditional refrigerated doors in order to show customers personalised real-time adverts from Coca-Cola, Nestle, and others, and to increase sales.

The use of the technology is proving controversial, with customers and commentators claiming they are unnecessary, creepy, and intrusive. Walgreens first piloted the Cooler Screens system in Chicago in January 2019.

Reaction

The use of Cooler Screens has attracted considerable concerns and criticism:

  • Appropriateness/need: Some people complain the Cooler Screens system are unnecessary and overly 'in-your-face'.

  • Privacy: Cooler Screens says all data collected by its system is anonymised system; yet it has been described as overly 'in-your-face' and 'intrusive' and its initial pilot at Walgreens Chicago raised concerns about cameras reputedly installed to guess a customer's age, gender, and mood. Pam Dixon, the executive director of the World Privacy Forum, described Walgreens use of the system as 'The creepy factor here is definitely a 10 out of 10.'

  • Scope creep/normalisation: Cooler Screens says it is keen to expand its system across retailer's operations. Walgreens says future enhancements such as voice recognition will be 'carefully reviewed and considered in light of any consumer privacy concerns'.

Transparency

Cooler Screens says it plans to educate customers about the digital displays and launch features such as voice recognition. However, customers are still not informed that they are being tracked by sensors and cameras.

Furthermore, per The Takeout, Cooler Screens claim that '90%+ of consumers no longer prefer traditional glass cooler doors' may be 'extremely inflated' given only two thousand people were surveyed.

Operator: Walgreens; Kroger; CVS; GetGo, Chevron
Developer:
Cooler Screens

Country: USA

Sector: Retail

Purpose: Personalise advertising

Technology: Advertising management system; Emotion recognition; Eye tracking; Facial scanning; Iris recognition; Recommendation algorithm; Voice recognition
Issue: Appropriateness/need; Privacy; Scope creep/normalisation

Transparency: Marketing; Privacy