August 24th, 2011

How advertisers are using your face to tailor the message

Los Angele Times

Once the stuff of science fiction and high-tech crime fighting, facial recognition technology has become one of the newest tools in marketing, even though privacy concerns abound.

Picture this: You stop in front of a digital advertising display at a mall and suddenly an ad pops up touting makeup, followed by one for shoes and then one for butter pecan ice cream.

It seems to know you’re a woman in your late 20s and, in fact, it does. When you looked at the display, it scanned your facial features and tailored its messages to you.

Once the stuff of science fiction and high-tech crime fighting, facial recognition technology has become one of the newest tools in marketing, even though privacy concerns abound.

The Venetian resort, hotel and casino in Las Vegas has started using it on digital displays to tailor suggestions for restaurants, clubs and entertainment to passersby.

Kraft Foods Inc. and Adidas say they are planning to experiment with it as early as this year to push their products.

A group of U.S. bar owners in Chicago last month started using facial recognition, in conjunction with mounted cameras, to keep tabs on the male/female ratio and age mixes of their crowds. Patrons planning a night out can use mobile apps to get a real-time check of a venue’s vibe.

“This helps people avoid those hit-or-miss nights,” said Cole Harper, 27, co-founder of the SceneTap company that makes the app.

The commercial applications of facial recognition are in contrast to those being used by law enforcement to identify specific individuals. Companies, at least at this point, mostly just want to pinpoint a demographic based on age and gender to tailor their ads.

But even this facial recognition-lite alarms privacy advocates, given that it could greatly popularize and expand use of the technology.

Read more: http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-facial-recognition-20110821,0,7327487.story?track=rss&utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+MostEmailed+(L.A.+Times+-+Most+E-mailed+Stories)

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