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Satellites Spy On Black Friday Shoppers 171

Posted by Soulskill
from the bet-you-can't-see-through-my-roof dept.
MojoKid writes "Those satellites in space don't just take spy pictures. On this Black Friday 2010, they actually took pictures of you, and your rush to Black Friday shopping deals. The research is being done to see what consumer demand this year means for retail stocks. The trend, so far, has been favorable. The companies involved in this are Remote Sensing Metrics and Digital Globe. Remote Sensing Metrics is a Chicago-based consulting firm that analyzes the satellite imagery. In turn, it purchases those images from Colorado-based company Digital Globe, which operates its own satellites."
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Satellites Spy On Black Friday Shoppers

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  • Stores with product X for price Y have crowd patterns like Z
    • by jhigh (657789)
      Yeah, I have to say that I don't get the point of this, either. What are they trying to learn with images that they can't learn with the raw numerical data?
  • One more reason (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Roland Piquepaille (780675) on Saturday November 27, 2010 @04:49PM (#34359794)

    to stay away from the mindless consumerism that defines today's society.

    My immediate family and I don't buy presents for any of the "holiday seasons". We offer ourselves things of no merchant value, such as poems, good time and love.

    Whenever I go to town, I see people moving from shop to shop like drones, trying hard to figure out what they're going to buy next. We used to be like that, but we aren't anymore. We use money to live (food, basic transportation, reasonable housing) and our hands and heads for entertainment.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by FooAtWFU (699187)
      While I respect a modicum of separation from "mindless consumerism", I'm unconvinced of the premise you advance - and do not see that having your car show up as two to four off-white pixels in a satellite image of the Wal-Mart parking lot is any cause for alarm whatsoever.
      • by russotto (537200)

        do not see that having your car show up as two to four off-white pixels in a satellite image of the Wal-Mart parking lot is any cause for alarm whatsoever

        WHAT? That means someone stole my car! And painted it white!

      • Re:One more reason (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Roland Piquepaille (780675) on Saturday November 27, 2010 @05:13PM (#34359962)

        It's not the number of pixels that represents my car, or the danger (or lack thereof) for my liberties, it's the fact that those who want to sell us things treat us like cattle: our consuming habits are under intense scrutiny all of the time, and we are fed a form of brainwashing called "advertising" as a result of the marketing studies. And the worst is, it works: people consume, consume and consume all the time, and start consuming even more when certain dates come (like Black Friday).

        I chose to stop consuming whenever possible, to not be a cattle.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by davester666 (731373)

          I hate to think of how much the police department would make by selling the information they gather by driving through mall parking lots, scanning every single license plate looking for stolen cars...

        • by feidaykin (158035)
          For a dystopian look at the inevitable progression of endless consumerism, read Brave New World. [wikipedia.org] It's a good book on multiple levels, but when I first read it 10 years ago, I thought the satire of consumerism was a bit extreme, bordering even on the absurd. Sadly, I don't think so anymore.
        • (like Black Friday).

          I had to literally go to Wikipedia and find out what Black Friday is. Apparently it's a "go and buy and buy and buy all kinds of things, whether you need it or not" - day. No wonder the average US citizen weighs more than a truck. And yes, they indeed do seem to behave like cattle: you tell them something and they believe it, without anyone bothering to even think about it.

          (There is no Black Friday or anything similar here so I obviously had never even heard of it before)

        • by hitmark (640295)

          Once one draw back enough from the details, one find that modern corporations are not really that different from soviet style communism. Both require(d) some level of predictability, resulting in massive data gathering.

      • Personally I do like the premise the OP advances. Instead of getting more stuff of little to no real value, they are making memories that will last longer than any item made of fiber, metal, or inorganic hydrocarbon compounds. By putting real thought and care into their choice for presents, they are retaining a sense of humanity that today's society dearly lacks.

        • Personally I do like the premise the OP advances. Instead of getting more stuff of little to no real value, they are making memories that will last longer than any item made of fiber, metal, or inorganic hydrocarbon compounds.

          That's until the Alzheimer's kicks in. Then you'll be sad indeed you invested so little in Star Wars figures.

          • When Alzheimer's kicks in you won't even remember what they are, much less why you have them. The only joy you will get is the day-to-day seeing of something "new". At that point, nothing will really matter as you'll just be existing.

          • by vegiVamp (518171)

            Meh. When the alzheimer's kicks in, you won't remember you have star wars figurines, let alone what star wars is.

        • by jhigh (657789)
          You obviously don't have kids. There is nothing comparable to the joy that one receives from watching the look on your kid's face(s) on Christmas morning. Anti-consumerism is all fine and good, but on Christmas Eve, I want my kids giggling and shaking with excitement while I try to calm them down enough to fall asleep. On Christmas morning, I want to watch them squealing and opening presents.

          So, yeah, I'm a consumer at Christmas time.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            Then you've already indoctorinated your kids to the consumerist side of Christmas. There is plenty to be excited about without expensive presents. Teach your kids to enjoy the finer things in life (like each other's company) more than some toy.

            You're right, I'm not a parent, but if I were, I hope my wife and I would be able to celebrate Christmas in some truly meaningful way. (:

    • My immediate family and I don't buy presents for any of the "holiday seasons". We offer ourselves things of no merchant value, such as poems, good time and love.

      Your Christmas sounds pretty shitty, well except for the love part... That sounds kinky.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        Your Christmas sounds pretty shitty, well except for the love part... That sounds kinky.

        That's because you equate Christmas and consuming.

        Let me tell you how my family and I stopped buying stuff for Christmas: we used to rush downtown to buy each other presents, before the 24th, just like you. Then we figured we could buy more shit for our money if we exchanged promises at xmas eve, and actually bought said shit after mid-january, when the unsold articles would be discounted. We did that for several years,

        • by jhigh (657789)
          Wow, I feel bad for your kids if you have any...
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by dmartin (235398)

            Why?

            If you just go to the first part of what he said - you can get more stuff for the same amount of money if you buy on a date that is slightly later than the date everyone else uses - it is completely rational. There is artificial demand in the market because everyone is attempting to do the same thing. It is perfectly rational to delay a few days to get more stuff -- or to spend less on Christmas and more on the kids on small things for the rest of the year. The *only* reason that the 25th is special is

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by clarkkent09 (1104833)

      That fits perfectly with the environmentalist goal of de-civilizing the society. I hope your next step is to grow your own food in your backyard, drink rainwater, and light fire with two stones (or a stone and your head if you prefer). What you call 'mindless consumerism' is a sign of a healthy and prosperous society with plenty of goods that most people want and can afford, there is nothing wrong with it.

      • Wow, nice leap. Faux Roland never said one word about environmentalism. As for environmentalism's "goal" of de-civilizing society I can only assume that is some kind of inside joke among those who prefer to see the worlds resources polluted beyond the point of being able to actually sustain civilization.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by clarkkent09 (1104833)

          There is far more evidence that the goal of at least some leading environmentalists is de-civilizing the society and a return to a primitive society (for example, a bestselling environmentalist author: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iTYe8WloF1U [youtube.com] ) than that there are people who would "prefer" to see world polluted beyond the point of being able to sustain a civilization. I don't know anybody who would want that.

          • So, in response to my pointing out your straw man argument you put up another straw man argument? And the same one at that?!
          • by vegiVamp (518171)

            Well, I guess it all depends on what you define as "de-civilizing". If that entails you not being allowed to rape the planet simply because you feel you're entitled to a fuel-guzzling monster SUV to go fetch a loaf of bread at the bakery around the corner, then yeah, the world can damn well use a good de-civilizing.

      • by vegiVamp (518171)

        > a healthy and prosperous society with plenty of goods that most people want and can afford

        I can't help but wonder how you've missed the debt crisis most of this healthy and prosperous society has been in for the last years.

    • Consumerism can be mindless. But it can also be very thoughtful. And that, to me, is when it's just as good as something like a poem.

      Humans are tool users, and there's nothing wrong with buying tools to use as instruments in having fun and making memories. Which could be literal instruments as a new guitar for a music lover. Or something like a new computer for a parent who doesn't have a good grasp on what to buy. These would seem to come under "consumerism" but can have a lasting impact on happiness

      • by vegiVamp (518171)

        To me, consumerism *is* mindless. If you put thought into buying relevant, useful and personal presents, it is no more consumerism than buying bread.

        I like the idea of limiting the number of presents to buy, too - everyone gets something worthwile and meaningful, but nobody has to bleed for it.

    • by aztektum (170569)

      ohnoitsroland

      • by Atraxen (790188)

        Actually, no it's not... See a comment up the page.

        If anything, Ohnoitsaguywhoistrolling... If it's the real Roland, your zombie-hunting fantasies are about to come true.

    • Ugh, smug alert!

      Your post reminds me of the classic "I don't watch TV, it's all crap.". Good times and love are great and are sometimes accompanied by purchased gifts. Many are fun and useful gifts beyond the ability of an individual to craft. Your black and white sneer at anything offered by a merchant is a disturbing brand of fanaticism. If beating your chest about how "enlightened" you are gets you off, more power to you. The rest of us choose to enjoy the good things produced by the skill of our fellow

    • So, what device are you using to post this? And how did you get it without paying for it? Or is this not entertainment?
    • Hippies. They say they want to change the world, but all they do is smoke pot and smell bad.
      • by gmhowell (26755)

        Hippies. They say they want to change the world, but all they do is smoke pot and smell bad.

        So the difference between hippies and libertarians is soap?

    • by RockDoctor (15477)

      to stay away from the mindless consumerism that defines today's society.

      My immediate family and I don't buy presents for any of the "holiday seasons". We offer ourselves things of no merchant value, such as

      Pinko Commie subversive prevrets. Y'all should hang. Not hang your heads in shame, just hang from the Strange Fruit tree, with the rest of the "fruits". [/sarcasm]

  • by ldconfig (1339877) on Saturday November 27, 2010 @04:52PM (#34359808)
    I and us older folks messed up. I am very sorry you may never know what freedom really is. ld
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by FooAtWFU (699187)
      I'm not sure how you have connected "Freedom" with "protection from having your car's top photographed from a satellite while it's sitting in the parking lot of a Target next to thousands of others from which it is generally indistinguishable". Please explain.
      • by ffreeloader (1105115) on Saturday November 27, 2010 @05:45PM (#34360196) Journal

        You are now so used to being spied on that you can't even comprehend what the world was like without it.

        It was a much friendlier and relaxed place to live. Nobody had the right to sift through your life just to see what they could sell you and the government wasn't into monitoring every move you made and jailing you for the least offense. That was a society that had much more freedom.

        I can remember when getting caught lighting up your tires wasn't an automatic reckless driving ticket and a several hundred dollar fine as well as a large increase in your insurance rates. Cops were much more human and forgiving for they remembered what it was like to be young and dumb and weren't out to disrupt your life for your first mistake. Most of them, as long as you didn't try to lie to them, would let you go with a warning even if they caught you making a pretty serious mistake. I've been let walk after burning rubber for half a city block and reaching close to 80mp in a 25mph zone right in front of sheriff's deputy I didn't see. He asked me what happened and I explained it to him: I was showing for a couple of very good looking young women and that it was a first for me to do that in town as my hotrodding and racing was done out of town. My honesty got me a warning instead of a ticket and some time in jail. Try that today and see what happens to you.

        You had the freedom to make mistakes and learn from them without being severely punished. If you didn't learn, well, that was your problem and you could expect to have the book thrown at you the second time. During high school most of us used to carry pocket knives and a lot of us had guns in the trunks of our cars because we liked to go plinking after school. I remember pranks such as wiring the urinal drain in the faculty men's bathroom to a Model T coil not getting anyone kicked out of school, and intentional small explosions in chemistry class going unpunished. I also knew a guy who blew a foot deep hole in the football field with a home made pipe bomb who got nothing more than a 2 day suspension. He wasn't hauled off to jail and prosecuted for terrorism. In fact the issue never was reported to the police and this was done inside city limits.

        Today's young people don't know what liberty is as we live in a society in which we are watched 24/7 and our liberties are fast disappearing. Not much individual freedom is left even when compared to eras such as the 60's and 70's, let alone the 1800's, but those of you who didn't live in those decades, and aren't students of American history, will never understand what has been lost. It's a paradigm you can't grasp because you've never experienced it.

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by Rude Turnip (49495)

          "I've been let walk after burning rubber for half a city block and reaching close to 80mp in a 25mph zone right in front of sheriff's deputy I didn't see. He asked me what happened and I explained it to him: I was showing for a couple of very good looking young women and that it was a first for me to do that in town as my hotrodding and racing was done out of town. My honesty got me a warning instead of a ticket and some time in jail."

          So you're whining that you can't drive wrecklessly down a street and poss

          • by ffreeloader (1105115) on Saturday November 27, 2010 @06:26PM (#34360502) Journal

            "I've been let walk after burning rubber for half a city block and reaching close to 80mp in a 25mph zone right in front of sheriff's deputy I didn't see. He asked me what happened and I explained it to him: I was showing for a couple of very good looking young women and that it was a first for me to do that in town as my hotrodding and racing was done out of town. My honesty got me a warning instead of a ticket and some time in jail."

            So you're whining that you can't drive wrecklessly down a street and possibly kill people. You're the reason why we can't have nice things.

            Sorry, but that's the dumbest response I've seen in a while. How you managed to take that from my post is beyond me.

            Government wasn't out to punish every infraction. They were out to teach if they thought you were capable of learning. They were human and recognized that they themselves made mistakes. They wouldn't let you get by with making the same mistakes multiple times, but a one-time infraction wasn't enough to always severely punish you.

            Funny how back then it was much easier to get ahead, in spite of how you claim I'm the reason you can't have nice things. Where you drew that logical fallacy from is beyond me. It's some of the worst logic I've ever seen. Funny how you think humanity in a less intrusive government led to a bad economy. The reality is just the opposite. Big brother watching you and wanting to control every aspect of your life is the reason our country is going broke.

          • by farnsworth (558449) on Saturday November 27, 2010 @07:45PM (#34361020)

            So you're whining that you can't drive wrecklessly down a street and possibly kill people. You're the reason why we can't have nice things.

            The reason we can't have nice things is not because people are human and make mistakes and do dumb things. The reason we can't have nice things is because recently the US has turned into a police state and a nanny state. Kids aren't allowed to walk to the park, zero-tolerance/three-strikes for utterly minor "crimes", and being treated like a criminal for wanting to travel around the country are all new things that have come to be over the last few decades. To pretty much any average US citizen (Helen Lovejoys aside) who is paying attention, this is an obvious and blatant turn for the worse.

            People being human is not preventing you from having nice things. The current environment that is dehumanizing everybody indiscriminately is.

          • by http (589131)

            Mods have access to better drugs than I do, apparently.

            That's the stupidest thing I've seen get a score over two in a long time. You have failed a basic reading comprehension task. Plus, your spelling could be improved.

      • by AK Marc (707885)
        Privacy is a freedom. It's gone. This particular one isn't that bad, assuming it's Google Earth level imagery. But it is another example of the constant surveillance we are under.

        Compare your grandparents stories about all the things they did that were wrong or illegal that they got away with, realized was wrong, and learned from that. And with the push for complete surveillance will result in fewer people getting away with such things, people don't get the "oops" factor they used to have to let them l
      • So you think it's acceptable to be spied on by the government and corporations for any reason at all?
    • by jordan314 (1052648) on Saturday November 27, 2010 @05:03PM (#34359890)
      I get a creepy feeling from this too. I've always favored military intelligence over war, and I supported the largest US spy satellite launch last week. But I was hoping our satellite technology wouldn't be flagrantly used to spy on our own citizens, especially for things as mundane as holiday shopping.
      • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 27, 2010 @05:08PM (#34359928)

        These images are collected by privately owned satellites, not the National Reconnaissance Office.

        • Who launched them? I'm not sure what the situation is like now, but it used to be that you could buy the best satellite imagery from Soviet spy satellites that were being leased out by a bankrupt former Soviet Union. I did some work on an MoD site in the late '90s, and they had a great picture of the entire site in their reception. I asked about this, since I'd read that it was illegal to take aerial photographs of the area - apparently for a few hundred quid over the Internet they got a Russian satellit

        • by rastos1 (601318)

          These images are collected by privately owned satellites, not the National Reconnaissance Office.

          Out of curiosity - do you think that if a crime/terror attack or any other event of interest happens in the screened area, can the police/FBI/CIA/NSA/... subpoena the pictures?

          • by Nyeerrmm (940927)
            Sure police can, but it's probably not terribly useful. Commercial satellite imagery is limited to .15 meter resolution by ITAR restrictions, and has to be targeted in advance. Great for tracking crowds, not for police work.
  • by Greyfox (87712) on Saturday November 27, 2010 @04:55PM (#34359832) Homepage Journal
    Since 1 pixel is 1/2 meter, this is approximately what you look like from space: ---> .

    Digital Globe has a flikr feed at http://www.flickr.com/photos/digitalglobe-imagery/ [flickr.com]

    • by masmullin (1479239) <masmullin@gmail.com> on Saturday November 27, 2010 @05:07PM (#34359922)

      Oh man. That shot makes me want to play sim city

    • Now, yes. What about in 5 or 10 years? First, Google gets to put my front yard in full color for everyone to see. Now Digital Globe can post my back yard. What next? Can they track my every movement? Don't think that they won't if they can make a buck doing it.
      /
      Maybe I'm just paranoid, but I don't want anyone tracking me (via cell phone, or car, or other method) without probable cause.
      • by Greyfox (87712)
        I wouldn't expect any such functionality in the next couple of decades. Satellites have limitations. I suspect unmanned drone aircraft will be the wave of the future and might be able to do some of that stuff. Currently it's still a lot easier to just superglue a GPS device to the underneath of your car. Or tell your cell phone company to start reporting your location updates...
  • by proverbialcow (177020) on Saturday November 27, 2010 @04:57PM (#34359854) Journal
    They mocked me for staying at home, making aluminum foil hats and slathering my naked body with turkey gravy, but who's laughing now?!?
    • Everyone that read your post.

    • Friday morning you park your car at the mall, then take the bus home and hide.
    • Dude, you should know that aluminum hats actually improve the transmission rate of the mind-control waves, you gotta use lead.

      Oh and turkey gravy gives skin cancer now :-)

    • by gooman (709147)

      They saw me walk into the mall where I purchased a Faraday cage suit and matching tin-foil hat.
      I put them on before I left.
      They think I'm still there! Hee hee.

      That'll learn 'em.

  • ours, not likely (Score:3, Insightful)

    by fermion (181285) on Saturday November 27, 2010 @05:06PM (#34359910) Homepage Journal
    On this Black Friday 2010, they actually took pictures of you, and your rush to

    So you are telling me that a group of people renowned for hiding in parent's basement with the technological knowledge to shop online willing went out into the deathtrap that was black friday.

  • ....but who's buying?
  • I don't get it (Score:3, Interesting)

    by formfeed (703859) on Saturday November 27, 2010 @05:31PM (#34360110)
    If you want to know how well you are doing, wouldn't you get better data from your cash register than from your parking lot?

    - Unless of course you want to know how well your competitor is doing.

    • Partially, but they also want to know how many people are looking but not buying. It would also be interesting to correlate with the amount of data usage in whatever the local GPRS / UMTS bands are to see how many people were comparing prices for offers online, and whether these people are buying things afterwards. Even without that, you want to get some idea of the percentage of people walking into your shop are walking out with a purchase and how many are just browsing. With in-store video footage and
  • So, we're now jumping on the bandwagon where everything is spying? (I know, I must be new here...) Because, what _I_ read was a barebones article (193 words!!!) barely longer than the summary, that basically says they are using imaging of parking lots (and they implied traffic patterns as well) to see how full they are. I might be wrong, but my response is already almost longer than the article which makes it difficult to tell. I say it's a valid approach, spun up via alarmist phrasing to look like a pr

  • by Stele (9443)

    On this Black Friday 2010, they actually took pictures of you, and your rush to Black Friday shopping deals.

    Nope, not me. I NEVER leave the house on Black Friday. I prefer not to be trampled and run down by mindless consumers.

    I do my Xmas shopping from the relative safety of my computer and Amazon. Ironically, the government probably knows a lot more about MY shopping habits than those in the satellite images.

    • by plopez (54068)

      Damn, I shouldn't have ordered those bags of fertilizer and barrels of diesel fuel. Hey NSA, that was a joke....

  • If you are an economy watcher and armchair economist like I am, the next day to watch is "Black Monday", the first Monday after Thanksgiving. People who only have decent internet at work often place orders on that day. It is dwarfed by "Black Friday", but still interesting to watch. I think it will be up, esp. if there were shortages at the malls due to inventory slashing by the retailers. I can't wait to find out.

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