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Privacy Concerns Arise In Area Department Stores

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natasha-brown-web Natasha Brown
Natasha Brown is the Emmy Award-winning anchor for the weekend eve...
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PHILADELPHIA (CBS) - When you’re shopping and you go into a fitting room, do you ever wonder if someone can see you?

The door may be closed, but in some stores, the answer is yes. And it may not just be security that has its eye on you as you undress.

“So anybody walking by could actually see in,” asked a shopper named Laura. “Oh, that’s awful!”

Laura and her daughter agreed to be recorded with a hidden camera in one of Macy’s stores.

She was shocked when she was shown that it’s not hard to see right inside the fitting room doors.

“I can see the whole floor. There’s no way you could change in there and have any kind of privacy,” said Laura. “It’s not private – really sad, scary, anybody could walk back with a camera.”

Hidden camera video revealed one of our CBS 3 producers as she moved about in several fitting rooms in half a dozen stores in our area.

They included Macy’s in Center City, Northeast Philadelphia, and King of Prussia.

We found the same revealing doors also at Ann Taylor Loft stores in Center City, Deptford, New Jersey, and Mount Laurel, New Jersey.

Here’s the problem.

The fitting room doors have slats that are angled down and into the room making it possible for anyone to see inside when up close.

But you can’t see out, so you feel secure.

“This wasn’t morally right,” said a former Macy’s employee with 20 years of experience in department store security.

He doesn’t want to reveal his identity but he says this is done intentionally to prevent shoplifting.

“I was shown the fitting rooms by another detective who was a man,” says the former employee. “You can see in, and pretty plainly see in.”

“Merely to say we have an interest in preventing theft isn’t enough in my mind to say, ‘okay and therefore your privacy rights are just thrown out the window,’” said Peter Eliasberg who is an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union.

“To my mind, there’s just areas where people shouldn’t be watching you, where you should have control whether people watch you or not,” said Eliasberg.

In Macy’s, there are signs posted that say fitting rooms are monitored by same-gender security personnel.

But you wouldn’t think that just anyone could steal a glance at you.

“I don’t think I’ll try on anything again,” said Laura. “For sure, I’ll buy things, take them home try them on and take them back.”

We didn’t find this problem in every store we visited.

But why are some fitting room doors designed this way?

Two weeks ago, Macy’s told a CBS station in Florida that it worked hard to, “strike a balance between preserving the privacy of customers…and deterring the theft of merchandise.”

But this is what Macy’s told CBS 3: “We currently are implementing changes to some fitting room doors so they are consistent across the country. At the end of this process, all fitting room doors will have outward-facing slats that limit the visibility into the fitting room from anyone standing outside the room.”

As for Ann Taylor Loft, the company told CBS 3, “The fitting room blinds in question at the stores referenced are not part of a loss prevention policy or strategy. If the blinds were improperly installed, our construction teams have a schedule in place to properly re-install the blinds.”

Whether fitting room doors like these are legal is unclear, but they could lead to claims of invasion of privacy.

Reported by Natasha Brown, CBS 3

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