Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Dunkin Donuts Facial Recognition technology - progress or privacy issue?

Dunkin Donuts are to use facial recognition technology in their stores in Buffalo, New York. According to the Guardian 'two Dunkin Donuts stores are about to start trialling a system that can scan your face and play an advert on a digital screen that is targeted to your age, gender and demographic group.' The ads will then play on a screen as you browse or queue to pay.

Dunkin Donuts image from my Flickr
(not necessarily the shop that facial recognition technology will be trialled in)

The use of facial recognition technology in Dunkin Donuts shops has been billed as ground breaking, however if facial recognition technology is ready for use in Dunkin Donuts then surely it is already in use elsewhere? Hunting around on the internet I was quite surprised to see the variety of ways that facial recognition technology is already being used.

Here is my list of 5 examples of facial technology developments and current uses:

1) Manchester airport trials face recognition technology at passport control

Provided by Fujitsu new facial recognition gates have been installed at Terminal 1 in Manchester Airport to compare the faces of UK and EU passengers to their biometric passports - if successful these gates will be rolled out across the UK.

2) Google using face recognition technology in latest version of Picasa

Google have introduced facial recognition into their latest version of Picasa. The new Picasa aims to make it easier to organise photos by automatically grouping photos of the same person. It can even take into account ageing and recognise the same person across their lives. Not perfect yet, but very impressive functionality nonetheless!

3) Budgen supermarket using facial recognition technology to stop underage purchases

An unspecified Budgen supermarket in London has installed facial recognition technology to prevent underage purchasing of alcohol and cigarettes. If the system recognises someone who has previously been unable to prove that they are 18, a signal will alert the cashier, who will then refuse to serve them. This could be rolled out and developed into a national database, but there is no detail on how to appeal if you are wrongly blacklisted though........

4) Reuters using Viewdle face recognition technology to index video content

Reuters are partnering with Viewdle and using facial recognition technology to index true, real time and contextually-relevant faces on screen. This enables users to search more relevantly and go to the exact point in a video where a face appears, rather than relying on traditional tags to track down content. Very clever technology that could yet change the face of video search.......

5) The Venetian-Macao-resort hotel using face recognition for staff

The Venetian Macao, the world's largest casino, has deployed 13 VisionAccess 3D face readers to authenticate 12,000 employers at the front entrance when a shift starts - things have moved on a bit from punching a card at the start of a work shift!

Furthermore there are rumours of widespread use of facial recognition technology in law enforcement and immigration.

I had no idea that this was all going on! The 'mainstream media' have been upset recently by Google Streetview and its 'blueprint for burglars'. If Dunkin Donuts can now use facial recognition to store images of faces and purchases then, if the marketing industry is not sensitive to privacy concerns, it may not be long before there are more negative privacy headlines around this latest advertising technology?

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