SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — You can order, pay your bill and even play games on tablets some restaurants now have at the table. But one of our viewers, Howard Fergarsky noticed a camera on a tablet and wanted to know if the restaurant is watching him.
“Is this a camera or something” our undercover producer asked a Chili’s server. “Oh no, it’s not,” she answered. Despite what the Chili’s server is telling our producer, there is a camera on the restaurant’s tablet on the table.
“I found the camera. Why is it there?” Fergarsky asked. “It doesn’t need to be there.”
He and friend, Cheryl Keith are afraid restaurants like Chili’s, Red Robin and Applebee’s which now have tablets for ordering, paying for food, even entertaining your kids with games could also be spying on us, watching and eavesdropping on our conversations or listening to what we’re saying about their servers or food.
“It concerns me that we’re not seeing the hidden risks,” said Keith.
Pam Dixon from the World Privacy Forum worries if cameras and microphones are on the tablets, there’s always a possibility they can be watching you.
“The tablet itself is not a bad thing,” she said. “It’s what they’re doing with that information…They may allow access to that information for marketing and things like that, and that’s what you don’t want to see.”
When we asked each restaurant about their tablet, each said their technology has no microphone and cameras will not be used to spy on us.
Red Robin says the camera function is not being used right now and that, “no one can listen to or watch anyone from the tablet.”
A spokesperson for Ziosk, the technology Chili’s uses says on its tablet, “the camera does not save information and does not share any information without the permission of the user.”
We noticed on the Chili’s device, a green light comes on, and you can use it to scan coupons. The restaurant says it may one day allow you to take selfies. You can already take selfies at Applebee’s which says only “the guest controls the still camera”.
“They wouldn’t build it, if it wasn’t being used that way,” said Fergarsky.
Fergarsky and Keith don’t want to take any chances and plan to turn any tablet on their table upside down.
“It’s just scary, too much,” said Keith.
Applebee’s admits it stores the selfies customers take, but according to Kevin Mortesen from the maker of Applebee’s tablet, they “delete them on a regular basis, currently monthly, but that time frame is currently being evaluated.”
Ziosk, the same company that makes Chili’s and Red Robin’s technology says it’s working on concepts for 15 of the top 50 restaurant chains, but could not comment further.