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The face reveals all they need to know about you

The face reveals all they need to know about you

Yes, it’s true: Your Face When Shopping Is the Retailers’ Biggest Asset…..

As you shop for Christmas, perhaps quite happily taking advantage of the retail revolution’s arrival at ‘omni-channel’ shopping using smart mobile devices and superfast connectivity, you wont realise you are part of the new trends.

Internet, social media. mobile technology discover, research and buy. You try it out virtually, you buy anything, anywhere, anytime. You expect it.

How do you feel about shops using facial recognition technology to watch you, analyse you and advertise directly to you?

You didn’t know? Oh dear. Well, perhaps you should understand what they are up.

Every Little Bit of Face Helps Tesco

The supermarket giant is now installing hi-tech screens that scan the faces of shoppers at the tills to detect their age and sex. Security? No, advertising.

Lord ‘you’re fired’ Sugar’s company Amscreen has signed a deal with Tesco to set up OptimEyes in stores and petrol forecourts. Cameras in the  advertising display above the tills identify each customer, judge gender and age and how long they look at the ad.

This real-time data then feeds through to advertisers to measure success and to help tailor more personal ads. Soon, if you have bought any food, an ad will tell you how to cook it and what else you should have bought.

The Protests

Of course, privacy campaigners are up in arms about this ever-more invasive use of ungiven data. Minority Report, Big Brother it is and a dozen other sci-fi scenarios.

Nick Pickles of Big Brother Watch said, People would never accept the police keeping a real-time log of which shops we go in, but this technology does just that. It is a surveillance state by the shop door.’

Tesco’s defence is that it will ‘enhance customers’ shopping experience.’ Some argue it is merely an extension of the loyalty card system which analyses previous spending. If you believe that, you’re well down the road to being a happy citizen in a totally privacy-free world.

If you’re not happy, so what? Go somewhere else to shop, but like power companies, supermarkets all copy each other eventually. You can’t wear a crash-helmet or a mask, because they’ll just refuse to serve you. They see your face, whatever you do.

The Psychology

Of course, some shoppers like the personal touch when their names are used by staff. Putting a name to a face is a social skill that makes people feel important. They feel wanted.

VIP-identification technology is being brought into top shops and exclusive hotels. Footage is taken and analysed as customers enter, and within seconds staff are alerted to the customers’ preferences, previous spend, celebrity status, size, diets, hair styles and colours, family members, security and credit ratings, all so that a VIP is made to feel like one.

This new technology will do that, readily. This new habit will mean that every known piece of data about all customers will be trawled through and pooled to enable the shops to service you with all your perceived ‘favourites’.

  • Older people tend to be outraged, even while appreciating some old-fashioned courtesy of being addressed more formally.
  • Younger people seem not to care about privacy so much.
  • Criminals and undesirables – well, we obviously will be happy when they find themselves identified more easily.

All fine. It’s just that one day, if we don’t buy enough of what’s recommended, don’t smile enough and don’t cooperate enough, a given store may brand us all ‘undesirable.’ And the authorities will follow suit, because the mega-retailers will have become Authority.


FOOTNOTE: It’s just been announced that experiments are being done on volunteers to scan their brains in a giant MRI scanner to determine whether spending too long in a supermarket changes rational behaviour into impulsive behaviour! How the shelves are laid out, the background music, the aisles – everything matters to the retailers. Better to control us, of course.

Also available, without MailBigFile monitoring what you’re reading:

Dreaming of Escape from the Tyranny of Unwanted Ads, 28 August 2013

Data-Mining Is Still the Hottest Controversial Around With Far-Reaching Ramifications, 20 September 2013

No Place for the Human Touch in Complex Algorithms, 20 August 2013

Is Tescos Going to Be Your Top Holiday Destination? 7 August 2013

Shopping Online or On-screen, People Still Have to Shop, So What’s the Problem? 17 July 2013

Snoopers’ Charter Stirs Up the Controversy All Over Again, 19 June 2013

Image: Patrick J Lynch