Google has used the corporate motto ‘Don’t be evil’ for quite some time now. While some people feel that it no longer has the same ring to it now that Google is tracking users universally across its services like Gmail, Search and YouTube. An article in Tuesday’s Wall Street Journal caught my attention. It has to do with anticipating people’s wants and desires. In itself anticipating wants and desires can be somewhat if not entirely cool but I think at the same time it (to me) is also a bit creepy – probably mostly because of my not being quite ready to accept the idea of being watched or tracked.
The article “Big Brother, Now at the Mall” – http://on.wsj.com/QR5iub has to do with facial recognition technology kiosks at malls. The mere mention of Big Brother conjures up creepiness so there’s no doubt about word association at least as far as the author and editor are concerned.
The story discusses that in malls located in Seoul, South Korea there are information kiosks that have a touch screen and two cameras along with a motion detector. ‘As a visitor is recorded, facial-identity software estimates the person’s gender and age. The system’s makers, two companies from South Korea’s SK Holdings Co. conglomerate, plan to allow advertisers to tailor interactive ads on the kiosk by those attributes. A 40-something man looking up a restaurant on the kiosk may be shown an ad for a steakhouse in the mall, while a 20-something woman might get one for a clothing store. Shoppers will be able to interact with the ads with hand motions.’
Do you understand what I mean about being both creepy and yet cool? Delivering relevant content on an individual basis is the direction in which advertising is headed – no surprise there. Melding technology along with human behavior takes a little getting used to but I suspect it will become second nature to digital natives (as opposed to digital immigrants like me). Still I’ve never been happy about being pigeon-holed based on my appearance. I guess you could always wear a mask to the mall if you wanted to throw off the system. I actually might try that – when it gets to the U.S.
I also read a short article on technology that allows your tablet to listen in on your conversation and make relevant search choices to show you more information in real-time based on what subject you are discussing. This is not to say it can be done on the same device, in fact it’s well known that iPhone users cannot search while on a phone call. But serving up real-time relevant content based on actual ongoing conversations? I’d say that’s pretty cool. Is it creepy too?
Hey Mark- great post. I think that leveraging technology to customize offers and serve up relevance is totally cool, and only has the potential to make my life easier and more interactive. The thing most people forget about (especially when discussing the creepiness factor,) is that you can always say “no thanks,” just like you can now, with all the off-target offers and telemarketing and everything else that advertisers are hurling at us. Facial recognition is indeed on the way and, frankly, I think it will be fun to see how rich those databases can become. Also – one minor point of disagreement – you can indeed search while on a call using an iPhone. I do it all the time!
Thanks for your comment Nader and reminding people that ‘no thanks’ still works can help remove some of the problems related to intrusion. While i am not opposed to facial recognition I do think it will have a few bumps in the road before it becomes something people are truly comfortable with.
Don’t know where I got the notion that talking and surfing on the iPhone were mutually exclusive. Thanks for pointing that out.
I for one do not look forward to such “interaction” , viewing it rude and intrusive (much like your recent post on LinkedIn asking for endorsements). If I want such “suggestions” , I will ask for them rather than having them pushed in my face and having to say “No thank you” to something I didn’t request in the first place. Much less having my tablet intrude.
Shouldn’t such “conveniences” operate under the Queen’s adage ‘Speak when you’re spoken to!’?
Why do I feel that the internet has become something akin to a sharp kitchen knife in the drawer that I must be careful using as it can do as much harm as good? Have I become a Luddite?
I don’t think that there’s any reason to think having a problem with intrusive technology would make one a Luddite. The die has been cast however and intrusion is only going to become – more intrusive. Thanks for the comment Tom.