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And Now A Word About Privacy – Digital Signs Using Hidden Facial Recognition Software To Market You and Store Data –

Posted Jul 15 2010 8:55am

This might be a good time to check out the “free” digital displays we all see running in physicians offices all over, and read the privacy policies of image the vendors providing this service.  I am not saying that this is the case, but rather creating an awareness of potential marketing as most of the advertising we see is usually paid for by pharmaceutical companies and other health organizations.  This article mentions the use of signs in Times Square in New York and even some bill boards so there’s really nothing to stop the expansion into other areas as we all know drug companies, device companies, hospitals, etc. are all advertising today and competing to capture the consumer every where you turn.  

Digital Signage is the word used to describe this type of advertising and you can read more at Wikipedia.  The video below gives a basic introduction to digital signage.  We are already beginning to see a lot of this in retailing.  Cisco and Intel have invested a lot of time and money for these capabilities.

Anyway, when placing digital signage in your office, you might want to inquire if any hidden cameras are provided and what data is collected.  Some are very upfront and will tell you, while others may or may not be upfront.  This company has come up with a vending machine that tells whether or not you are smiling.  In healthcare we always gear towards the use of new technologies with medical records and better care, but there’s a world of advertising out there to be aware of as well. 

In healthcare there are HIPAA requirements and recently in the news, Health IT partners are responsible for privacy so again before installing one of the “free” digital networks in your office, you might want to thoroughly review and ask questions and see if in fact any data is being collected, and if so by who and where it is being used.  There’s a lot of gray area with this new technology and laws and rules to protect privacy are few and far between.  BD 

In the 2002 film Minority Report, video billboards scanned the irises of passing consumers and advertised to them by name. That was science fiction back then, but today’s marketers are creating digital signs that can display targeted ads based on information they extract from examining the contours of individual human faces.

These smart signs are proliferating in commercial establishments and public places from New York’s Times Square to St. Louis area shopping malls. They are a powerful innovation in advertising, but one that raises compelling privacy issues - issues that should be addressed now, before digital signs that monitor our behavior become the new normal.

The most common name for this medium is digital signage. Most digital signs are flat-screen TVs that run commercials on a continuous loop in airports, gas stations, and anywhere else marketers think they can get your attention. However, marketers have had difficulty determining exactly who sees the display units, which makes it harder to measure viewership and target ads at specific audiences. The industry’s solution? Hidden facial recognition cameras.

The tiny cameras can estimate the age, ethnicity and gender of people passing by and can track how long a given person watches the display. The digital sign can then play an advertisement specifically targeted to whomever happens to be watching. Tens of millions of people have already been picked up by digital signage cameras.

The marketing business thrives on detailed audience information for tailored advertising. Indeed, the industry already acknowledges audience profiling as the key to its future success. There will be a greater push to identify individuals with digital signage as soon as it becomes more cost effective to do so.

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