Anyone who’s attended my eMetrics or IMedia presentations has heard me explain how to use facial images to achieve online goals, everything from branding the visitor to conveying specific product or service abilities. Recently Business Week had a little blurb on what types of faces spokespeople should have to convey specific messages to an audience.
It’s nice to know people are catching up.
What’s really caught my attention recently is the Japanese company Omron. They claim to have security camera systems that can differentiate male from female faces. I have no idea if the claim is accurate, I only recognize what this means to marketing research.
Imagine walking down an aisle of your local WhateverMart. You know there are security cameras in place. You’ve long ago forgotten they exist and are watching you. Somewhere, perhaps in the back of your mind, you feel a little more comfort and don’t realize you attribute that increased comfort level to a non-conscious recognition that your shopping experience is a little safer due to their cold, emotionless eyes watching you and others navigate your cart through men’s underwear to women’s shoes to frozen foods.
But now cold, emotionless eyes can automatically recognize men as men and women as women.
This means there is objective, empirical evidence that men actually do spend more time loitering in the women’s underwear section than picking out their own underwear, women’s shoes than men’s shoes, the younger and older males shop more in frozen foods than middle-aged males do, that women rarely buy single items and are actually far tougher sells than men are, that a woman shopping with an obnoxious child shops less impulsively than does a male with an obnoxious child in tow, that women spontaneously converse more often in homegoods and garden supplies than men do, that men spontaneously converse more often in sports equipment and automotive than women do.
This evidence is owned by the store, by the corporation. And if you’re a regular shopper at a single store, your face is electronically remembered. They don’t know you are you…probably. Unless you checkout with a credit card, a bank card, a debit card, … anything other than coin of the realm, cold hard cash.
Do they still print that stuff?
(Interesting side note: one of the ways law enforcement detects certain classes of thieves is their regular use of cash to purchase high ticket items)
But the minute you use plastic to make a purchase your data — everything that the credit card company knows about you and your habits — is tied to your face. And the face of anybody who’s shopping with you. Are you not with your partner-in-life? Or are you with your partner-in-life and your spouse doesn’t know it?
Don’t think it’ll happen?
Face up to it. We are a species that loves information even though we may never use it. We like to know we could know something if we wanted to. Even if it’s not true. You are you if I publish that it’s you. Accuracy is meaningless in the internet (all the world’s information in a mouseclick nobody looks past the fold whoever owns the top slots wins) age.
Security systems are information systems with a specific purpose. They are designed to alert humans to threshold events, rarely to respond autonomously. Threshold events vary on the type of security a given system is meant to put in place. IE, humans make decisions as to what a threshold event is and program security systems with these business rules. Violate a business rule and a human looks at your face.
And we are a society that doesn’t tolerate differences well. We really aren’t an accepting people. This means business rules can be very narrow when required. Or very wide. Anybody remember air travel prior to 9/11? Security systems follow the old adage about locks on doors — they’re not designed to keep people out, they’re designed to only let certain people in. Those whose variations are within acceptable limits. Those who don’t violate whatever business rules are in place.
The intersection of these things?
Be careful what you buy. And who you shop with. Wear hats. Or hoods. Keep your head bowed. Whatever you do, whenever you see those comforting security cameras, don’t face up to it. Or do but with a disguise. You never know what business rule you might violate. So make sure you look just like everybody else in the store. Or at least act just like them. Business rules tend to not notice sheep, only wolves and the stray goat.
Those cold, emotionless eyes are watching you. Unfortunately they’re telling emotionally volatile, irrational humans what they see.
And you thought internet privacy was a concern.
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