Will Facial Recognition Ads End Privacy?

Check-In with Your Face from redpepper.

There’s a new attack on privacy: Facial recognition-driven advertising.

Facial recognition marketing uses cameras in stores and kiosks to take an impression of your face. It then estimates your gender and age, and serves you ads that are most likely to appeal to your demographic.

For example, a camera at a train station diorama senses you are a young man in his twenties, and serves you an ad for Axe soap. A young woman of the same age might be shown an ad for Crest Whitestrips.

It’s one thing to let others own your online social data. It’s another to surrender the physical whereabouts of your own face.

Yet, that’s where we are heading with the widespread movement towards facial recognition ads throughout the world.

Even set-top boxes at home can use facial recognition technology to serve different viewers targeted ads.

Facedeals is going a step further. This service matches your physical image at a store or location against your social profile pictures via the Facebook API, and then serving you specific social deals on site.

Privacy’s Last Stand?

Face of the desert
Image by chromik

It’s no secret that the current era of social check-ins and big data mining infringes upon traditional privacy norms. But at least you had the option of going dark to maintain some sense of individuality.

That physical separation from big-data driven marketing ends when facial recognition technology becomes widely adopted.

There will be no safe haven.

Google discontinued a facial recognition technology earlier this year that would allow anyone to snap photos of someone and then run a search online for personal information. The company felt the negative uses of its facial recognition technology outweighed the positive.

But for every Google there are ten companies and government agencies continue pursuing the technology. For example, consider the FBI’s facial recognition technology project.

To date most facial recognition technologies register impressions in a general way, seeking to determine age and gender. Then there are the Facetimes of the world.

As the drive to automate personal marketing continues, we will see more full facial recognition impression technologies come to market.

With it will come a dystopian Minority Report-esque world where anyone’s whereabouts can be tracked, analyzed and exploited.

In my mind, it spells an inevitable end to privacy as we know it… Unless you choose to live in the mountains unplugged in a forced hermitage.

What do you think of facial recognition ads?