SHOPPERS at Southampton’s Westquay are to have their movements tracked by artificial intelligence.

The centre’s owner is conducting a trial of “cutting edge AI technology” using its security cameras to understand consumer behaviour.

But it insists there will be no facial recognition involved and data will stay anonymous.

The technology will register individual shoppers’ movements around the centre and collect the information to show patterns of footfall.

Westquay owner Hammerson is carrying out the trial with American company Deep North, which offers retailers the chance to “unleash the power of your existing video assets” with “game-changing enterprise software”.

A Westquay spokesperson said: “Giving our customers what they really want from their retail experience is our number one priority.

“To help ensure we are delivering on this commitment we will be trialling new camera technology at Westquay, Southampton, to help us better understand how and when they like to shop. These insights will then enable us to ensure we have the right brand mix for our shoppers within the centre.”

But Silkie Carlo, director of the campaign group Big Brother Watch, said: “Many shoppers will be shocked to know that surveillance cameras could be tracking them and their families around the shopping centre.

“If Westquay wants to give customers ‘what they really want’, they should give them the information and choice about this sort of tracking.

“There are easier ways to find out what kind of shopping experience customers want without compromising their privacy and dignity, and covering the shopping centre with AI surveillance.”

Hammerson – whose other shopping centres include Birmingham’s Bullring and London’s Brent Cross – said in a trading update that it had completed the introduction of chatbots and online shopping portals across its properties.

It added: “We also recently commenced a trial with Deep North at Westquay, which utilises cutting edge AI technology within our existing infrastructure, to better understand customer behaviour.

“This will help us to deliver rich insights for our brands and help us to better quantify the true value of physical space.”

Deep North co-founder Jinjun Wang has previously told how “every security camera in the world can leverage AI, computer vision and deep learning to benefit consumers and retailers”.

Deep North told the industry magazine Retail CIO Outlook how the technology could track and trace individuals so as to understand customer movements and interactions with product displays.

Technology could evaluate customers’ age and gender, providing an anonymised identity for each shopper without collecting any personally identifiable data, the company said.