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The Two Faces of Facial Recognition: Has big brother gone to far?



Chief Visionary Officer

As the years come and go, the impact of technology on marketing continues to increase exponentially.  2016 is looking to a be a year where Big Brother is taking a bigger and bigger role in your life with facial recognition technology being used to target advertising.  Now, before you say there is no way that can happen….did you see The Minority Report?  Just a few years shy of Tom Cruise’s sofa hopping antics, he was staring a movie (2002) that showed the future of marketing based on facial recognition.

South Africa’s Douwe Egbert, a coffee company, installed a coffee machine in O.R. Tambo International Airport which dispensed a coffee automatically to passengers that yawned as they walked past.  As a marketer, I think this is absolutely brilliant.  As a consumer, my fears are increasing by the day.  So, let’s look at the good and bad of facial recognition.

Smile, You are On Candid Camera

As a marketer, I am chomping at the bit for this technology.  How brilliant is the idea that a customer can walk into a store and their face would be recognized and BAM….a coupon would show up on their phone offering them 25% off an exact product they had been looking at recently online?  The potential for increasing sales close ratio is insane!  Companies who embrace this technology might actually put customers back in the brick and mortar just to get the discounts.  Used effectively, businesses could change the face of their business with this software, turning the red bottom line to black.

I also believe in the positive impact on humanity it could have within the market place.  Let’s say a felony criminal committed a crime and the police have not been able to arrest that individual?  Facial recognition programs used in stores could be connected to list of suspects provided by a national police database and report criminals in their store in real time.

gotham_city_mugshots__two_face_by_pinkhavok-d7j00f6Mugshot of the Year

At the same time, with every step towards less anonymity we lose more and more privacy.  With the loss of privacy, our personal data and families are at risk.  What if someone who has very bad intentions get their hands on the pictures and home data?  Where is the ethical responsibility for big businesses to protect the consumer and not prostitute them for their own wallet?

The best scenario out of what could go wrong is that our pictures and data would be sold to other businesses to use to market to us.  The worse…I don’t want to consider.

So, is there a way to use this technology responsibly?  Are we as a society beyond hope that this could happen?  As we get closer and closer to the brilliant possibilities this could be used in commerce, we need to understand how to control the pandora’s box that is bound to be open.  How do you feel about facial recognition being used in business/ marketing?

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