Facial recognition when shopping: Advertisement targeting

Facial recognition for advertising: Personalised advertising could soon be standard.

Facial recognition could soon be used when you are doing your shopping. So if you go to a supermarket and see a screen with advertisements, you could see personalised advertising in the future. Read on to find out how this works and whether this is morally right.

It’s nothing new that software and devices are now able to recognise faces. It isn’t clear where and when this technique would be used. Is it right though, that your every facial movement is judged and reacted to in this way?

Facial recognition for advertising purposes

A pilot project for facial recognition ran some time ago in supermarkets in Germany and attracted a lot of attention. In 40 Real supermarkets, the faces of customers who viewed advertising on a screen were analysed. It was not about identifying the people, but about gender and the approximate age. In addition, this survey analyses how long the person viewed an advertisement. But is this contravening data protection? It has been criticised due to the fact that a stored photo of a face means that they are not anonymous. Real, on the other hand, argues that it is merely an analysis of gender and age and not an identification. Real wants to make targeted advertising and, of course, comply with all data protection guidelines.

Personalised advertising by facial recognition

How could personalised advertising by facial recognition work? If the data can be evaluated and reused, you could expect personalised advertising on screens soon. You could go through a supermarket and stand by the clothes. Next to the shopping tables is a small camera and a screen, which identifies your face as male and about 25 years old. Then the screen will present lightning-fast advertising for clothing of this age class. When the screen detects a woman with a child, the current child care offer is displayed on the screen.

Business development manager Andy Martin, from Axis, a company that develops facial recognition was interviewed by The Guardian. He said “We’re already working behind the scenes with some well-known retailers. They are interested in spotting their loyal shoppers when they walk through the door. It would allow a sales assistant to be alerted and offer some a truly personalised shopping experience.”

Online shopping using cookies is also personalised advertising

This method of personalised advertising is already widespread in online shopping. Your shopping habits are already stored and used. You will then be offered products that may interest you in your current buying behaviour, due to age and gender. When you are online, some web pages place small files on your computer, so-called cookies. Through these cookies, you will recognise the website again. Amazon and Facebook work in a very similar way. If you go to Amazon and view certain products and then look into your Facebook Timeline shortly after, you may see the same product showing on there. These advantages because of facial recognition in online shopping are now seen as a positive by the retail trade.