UK Supermarket Chain Tesco to Use Face Scans to Target Ads

As technology improves within our world, things that we see in films are becoming reality as UK retailer Tesco are set to use face scanning tech to target ads.

Face Scan image

In Star Wars, the idea that in a far off galaxy, light years away, life is abundant with all creatures and kinds battling it out, good against evil, is an imaginative and creative idea, that most of us believe only exists in a DVD or on a movie screen. However, sci-fi films like Minority Report hit a little closer to home. The technology and ‘Big Brother’ depicting film, starring Tom Cruise, showcased some of the most peculiar advancements of future tech ever seen, with moviegoers confident in the knowledge that none of this stuff existed. But now, just a few years later, UK supermarket chain Tesco are set to deploy one of the very tech features from the movie that some might even be scared of.

The technology in question is face scanning devices used to know who you are and what you might like. Except that while Tesco’s tech doesn’t quite go as far as to knowing your name, date of birth or any of your personal details, it can analyse what you look like to figure out your age and your gender, which in turns allows the system to target ads towards you, specifically based upon your demographic. Developed by Amscreen, a digital signage company owned by business mogul Lord Alan Sugar and ran by his eldest son Simon, the face scanning tech is looking to be rolled out across all of Tesco’s 450 petrol station forecourts, which could see it reach an estimated 5 million shoppers. Simon Sugar even says himself that  “It’s like something out of Minority Report” and that “this could change the face of British retail, and [Amscreen’s] plans are to expand the screens into as many supermarkets as possible.” But despite the reassurance of its forward thinking, concerns still remain about the technology’s privacy element.

A Tesco spokeswoman tried to silence doubters, stating that “This is not new technology.” adding that “No data or images are collected or stored and the system does not use eyeball scanners or facial-recognition technology”. However, Nick Pickles, of Big Brother Watch, suggested that “If people were told that every time they walked into a supermarket, or a doctor’s surgery or a law firm, that the CCTV camera in the corner is trying to find out who they are, I think that will have a huge impact on what buildings people go into.” Other questions about how useful the tech would be also remain as even if customers opt-in and the face scanning technology is “ethically deployed” in this way, the fact that it uses things such as the length of a customers hair to figure out gender may cause issues as not every man has short hair, nor does every woman have long hair and vice versa. In fact, problems may arise if people feel that certain things are being targeted towards them due to gender, age or racial stereotypes so whether or not this will be addressed in the future has yet to be seen.

We’ll keep you posted once we know more.

Source: BBC

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