Marketers look to “facial coding” program

The new technology that can read your face, and your mind (Yahoo – Australia)

Using the camera in your personal device, the new facial recognition software interprets your emotions by mapping the minute movements of your eyes when you smile, your mouth when you gasp or the furrow of your brow when you are confused.

“They use the technology to make sure that people have understood their content,” Matt Newcomb from Proctor and Gamble said.

Some (me included) might quibble that this isn’t technically a facial recognition system because it isn’t used to uniquely identify an individual within a larger set of individuals even though true face-rec and this emotional response detector use some of the same underlying technologies.

Some organizations that opt for this type of technology will do a better job of explaining its use than others.

A discussion of facial recognition and advertising

Consumers Have No Constitutional Protection From Facial Recognition (Internet Evolution)

Over the past decade, marketers have increasingly relied on facial recognition technology (FRT) to create personalized advertisements. FRT depends on complex algorithms to identify a person by measuring the size, angle, and distance between a person’s facial features. FRT then uses this information to search a database of similar features and matches the image to a stored reference photo. Within seconds of capturing an image, FRT can detect and identify a single person in a crowded public area.

Unlike earlier discussions of the use of facial recognition technology used to ascertain demographic characteristics rather than a unique identity, this article discusses true facial recognition in advertising.

Other posts containing longer comments on demographics vs. identity with respect to facial recognition:
Burgeoning Facial Recognition: How come no pitchforks?
FTC Freestylin’ on Face Recognition

UNICEF awareness campaign for universal ID in Paraguay

In what has come to be known as the “No Name Match,” UNICEF brilliantly harnessed the power of the Paraguay-Uruguay World Cup qualification match to drive the issue of universal ID for Paraguayans to the front of people’s minds before recent elections.

The two-minute video below is really good.

 

Without universal legitimate ID, it’s harder to make a lot of other things work that most of us take for granted. Universal vaccination against preventable disease, compulsory primary education, effective social safety nets — all of these things get a lot easier if everyone can prove their unique identity.

Face rec for quality assurance

Edinburgh Airport installs biometric system to track passenger movements (Computerworld UK)

An anonymous facial image is taken of each passenger as they check in and the time it takes each to reach certain waypoints plotted over time. If this time breaches a pre-set parameter for enough passengers, alerts can be generated.

The principle is that moving passengers from check in to the terminal increases their satisfaction with that airport and boosts the amount of time they have to spend money in the retail outlets that generate profit for airports.

The system can also be used to track the movement of passengers through the airport as a whole.

This is another really interesting application for facial recognition technology and, unlike other uses of face technology better described as demographic detection, this one actually is a true face recognition application.

Although it is a true face recognition application, it isn’t really an ID application so long as the facial image taken at the time of passenger is not linked to other personal information and it is deleted after the person reaches the “finish line.”

The item of interest to airports in this case is the length of time it takes real individuals to travel through various points between check in and the jetway. It’s a more sophisticated measure than a simple count and real-world measurement wasn’t easily automated before face recognition technology.

Airports in the UK have been early adopters of face recognition for this application because they are held to certain performance metrics (and subject to fines) for airport throughput. Having accurate real-time information on passenger flows can inform on-the-fly staffing decisions. For example, additional security screeners can be dispatched in the event a slow-down is detected, saving passenger time and the airport money.

Though airports have been early adopters, this basic application has obvious utility in shopping malls, department stores, planning for emergency evacuations, and large facility scheduling.

SecurLinx has experience in the design and deployment of this type of system. Our FaceTrac system is readily adapted to the challenge of on-the-fly enrollment, finish-line matching, reporting, and automatically purging image data.

Face recognition, marketing and privacy

It’s Your Face. Or Is It? (Press Release at Marketwire)

“From a marketer’s point of view it’s heaven. They can tailor ads, products, even prices based on your age, tax bracket, social media persona and purchasing habits. Marketers will pay handsomely for that information.” For example, NEC has developed a marketing service utilizing facial recognition technology. It estimates the age and sex of customers, along with the dates and number of times that customers go to each store. This information is then analyzed to help predict trends in customer behavior and shopping frequency.

“From a consumer’s point of view this could be a nightmare — the ultimate invasion of privacy.”

Johnson continues, “I’m not just a brand strategist. I’m also a consumer. And I’d like to speak with the voice of reason. New technology can offer enormous benefits. It also comes with enormous responsibility.” Johnson firmly believes we are collectively charged with that responsibility. We have to ensure this facial recognition technology does not become an all out assault on our privacy. “Do we want our children to be added to these facial databases? Probably not. Do we ourselves want to be added without our knowledge or permission? Probably not.”

We tackled the very interesting topics of marketing and the privacy of faces in this post from 2011.

It’s also worth noting that there are two different ways facial recognition technology can be applied to marketing in the bricks-and-mortar world. True face recognition matching a face to a unique individual so as to send a marketing message tailored for that one person is still pretty hard. Inferring demographic traits of a person by using facial analysis technologies does not rely on a unique identification and may provide a bigger bang for the buck (ROI) than true facial recognition.

Facial recognition for better television ratings

Nielsen Explores Facial Recognition Tech For Ratings

Privacy issues remain, acknowledged Fuhrer. But given the ubiquity of facial recognition-equipped devices, he adds: “There’s a tremendous amount of acceptance” compared to just a few years ago. And there’s also a “layer of anonymity” that can be applied to any facial analysis system deployed by Nielsen, Fuhrer said.

The Neilsen Company has been the gold standard for television ratings in the US. Now, they’re contemplating the application of facial recognition technology in televisions that support it in order to get more detailed information about the viewing habits of those included in their survey.

Nielsen pays its sample and is really transparent about the information is collects from individuals. My guess is that the biggest new privacy issue at work here is the potential abuse of non-Neilsen information gained by having access to a working video camera in each of the new smartTv’s.

UPDATE: See also Unilever, Coca-Cola Utilize Facial Analysis To Enhance Ad Tests

Face Rec System Can Sell Lipstick and Bust Terrorists

I guess, in a few cases, it could do both.

From Testing Lipstick to Spotting Terrorists (IEEE SPECTRUM)

Talking with Robin during his visit to Palo Alto, Calif., last week, he definitely seemed like a man tugged in two directions. While he was happy to talk about the successes of the technology in security tests, he kept bringing the conversation back to its applications in department stores, guiding women to selections of hair color and makeup.

Get me rewrite.

Very Odd “Facial Recognition” Article at smartplanet.com

Two things jumped out at me while reading San Francisco bars: Buy a drink, become profiled by cameras by Charlie Osborne at smartplanet.com: the scare quotes around forms of the word ‘anonymous’ and a novel formulation of privacy.

The scare quotes are here…

Venturebeat reports that Chicago-based startup Scenetap has combined “anonymous” facial recognition technology in venues with mobile technology so socialites can choose where next to go on a Friday based on their preferences — all provided through cameras in different venues.

…and here…

Scenetap promises the technology collects data “anonymously” and nothing is recorded or stored, and it is based on sophisticated profiling technology to approximate sex and age.

But why the scare quotes? By any definition, what Scenetap does is anonymous. It is specifically designed and marketed to clubs and their patrons as a means for gathering demographic information and that information cannot be traced back to a specific individual because it uses no individual identifier such as a person’s name (or cookie, but we’ll get to that later). To go further and collect personally identifying information would require a real facial recognition system which would be very expensive, require a large investment in training and labor and probably wouldn’t provide a sufficient return on investment (ROI) in a club/bar setting to make the effort worthwhile.

Then there’s the conception of privacy in this passage.

This type of technology is already prevalent online, where customer preferences and habits are tracked — in order to recommend products or pages you may be interested in. As we cannot see the data being collated, it seems less of a privacy issue than knowing that cameras above are observing you — even though the information collected about your online activity is far more vast.

There’s absolutely no equivalence between Scenetap and smartplanet.com. The image below shows that smartplanet.com places two cookies on a visitor’s computer and runs seven programs in the background of which most users would be completely unaware: three for tracking the user; three for connecting to social media; and one to monitor the site’s performance. One of the trackers, Crowd Science, even claims to be able to tell smartplanet.com about users’ interests, preferences, lifestyles, attitudes, opinions and incomes.

Real world demographic analysis tools like Scenetap do no such thing. It’s a dead certainty that smartplanet.com is collecting far more (and far more individualized) data, a fact that is acknowledged at the end of the quote.

Then there’s the part where transparency and privacy are inversely related because “As we cannot see the data being collated, it seems less of a privacy issue than knowing that cameras above are observing you.”

“Out of sight; out of mind” and “what you don’t know can’t hurt you” aren’t theories of privacy one sees many people advancing these days. By this logic, bricks-and-mortar demographics analysis can attain smartplanet.com’s level of respect for individual privacy by collecting vastly more information and using facial recognition technology to track individuals as long as they hide the cameras.

I don’t want this post to come across as grousing about what web sites do. The folks at smartplanet.com are working hard to put food on their family just like the rest of us and people should understand that if they aren’t paying, they aren’t the customer; they’re the product being sold. That’s just the way it is. This is completely uncontroversial to those who operate in the online economy; but let a bricks-and-mortar organization deploy a tool that collects far less information and there’s a tendency for those in the online world to come down with a collective case of the vapors. Physician, heal thyself.

See also:
Retail Marketing Technology Online and In Person
Transparency

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