2012-12-07 / Columnists

Your Life And Privacy

Such a Pretty Face
By Gille Ann Rabbin, Esq., CIPP/US

You walk into your neighborhood supermarket, passing a digital sign that displays advertising. Using facial recognition technology, it reads your face and displays an advertisement for a sale on diapers.

Is the ad for Pampers or Depend?

Until recently, because of high costs and limited accuracy, companies have not used facial recognition technology on a widespread basis. But this is changing.

A retail space can use facial recognition technology to serve tailored advertising to its customers. A digital sign equipped with a camera determines the demographic characteristics – age range and gender – of a consumer’s face, then delivers a targeted advertisement in real-time to the consumer.

When a person between the ages of 25 and 35 passes by the sign, the technology may detect her demographic as belonging to a group having small children, and serve her an ad for kids’ yogurt. A passerby having a 55 to 65- year old demographic may be served with an ad for vitamins for seniors.

Generally, in this use of the technology, detected images are not retained for future use. Advertisers believe these ads are highly relevant and can lead to more sales.

While there is no law specifically regulating facial recognition technology, industry groups have developed self-regulatory codes on digital signage use. Recently, the Federal Trade Commission, the nation’s consumer protection agency, issued a staff report on best practices

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