Yea or Nay: Sympathetic Advertising

March 17th, 2010 by Mimi Yin

Using facial recognition technology, an internal computer determines your gender and your age. The billboard then pulls up an ad based on your demographic, targeting your best possible interest. The billboard I tried out saw that I was indeed a woman in her thirties and… lo and behold, pulled up a very appealing lunch advertisement.

The author of this article compares this new technology to retina scanning technology in the movie “Minority Report” that allowed “billboards” to play ads that are tailored to YOU, personally, not you, as a member of a demographic group. Is that a fair comparison?

After all, the data behind the Japanese advertising technology probably looks more like this Wikipedia page on Japanese demographics than this IMDB page on Tom Cruise.

Still, it’s very easy to see the slippery slope between these two scenarios, in particular because they are collecting the faces they’re reading.

So the question remains, where’s the bright line between tracking people to gain a “general understanding” of what’s going and tracking individuals so they can’t get away with anything? Has this face-reading advertising technology already crossed that line?

What do you think?

Read faces to play demographically targeted ads?

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