Catch Me if You Can: On Facial Recognition Technology

What if you knew that at any moment in time, advertising agencies could be making permanent records of your facial expressions? That’s right: facial recognition technology is going beyond the iPhoneX, which has sensitive cameras and sensors to detect distinguishing features of one’s face. If you were not aware prior to reading this article, you now know that ad agencies are capitalizing on facial recognition technology, as well.

Advertising agencies are starting to use this emerging trend to engage with pedestrians in a way that diverges from prior practices. Facial recognition technology provides them with valuable insight into improving and enhancing various features about their product by letting them know who sees their advertisements when. For one example, ReadWrite describes that after a digital advertising billboard crashed, they discovered this technology hidden behind it: the billboard uses a camera and facial recognition software to distinguish the gender, age, facial expression, and duration of time spent analyzing the billboard for any given person.

The Guardian notes an example from a domestic abuse charity called Women’s Aid, in which the bruises from a woman faded out as more pedestrians viewed the screen. The purpose of this advertisement was to communicate that if more people understood the rise of domestic abuse and its adverse effects on women, then people would inherently contribute towards reducing domestic abuse. This example demonstrates how facial recognition is being used not only to see how many people notice their advertisements, but also to engage consumers as a necessary component of the advertisement itself.

In addition to gathering data and providing a new form of engagement, facial recognition is additionally being used to sustain the loyal consumer bases of different companies. Sales assistants will be notified immediately upon arrival of loyal consumers in their stores to provide loyal customers with more care and attention, which in turn personalizes their shopping experience, according to The Guardian.

Although facial recognition technology provides a plethora of benefits to producers, this technology can eventually be deemed illegal; Illinois and Texas already have laws that act against this use of technology. Although no federal laws currently govern facial technology recognition, it can eventually be considered an invasion of privacy and soon struck down.

For example, Licata v. Facebook claims that Facebook is violating the Biometric Information Privacy Act for obtaining its users’ faceprints without the consent of its users. This infringement of privacy is certainly an issue, and the outcome of this case will determine how Facebook should modify its service to align with the law. This case could also set a precedent for all facial recognition software, everywhere.

Ultimately, companies have to think critically about how to reconcile consumerism with respect for the privacy of their consumers when implementing facial recognition technology.