SOURCE: Whitehorn Group

Whitehorn Group

May 21, 2013 09:23 ET

It's Your Face. Or Is It?

Christopher Johnson, CEO Whitehorn Group, Weighs in on Facial Recognition Software for Marketing

NEW YORK, NY--(Marketwired - May 21, 2013) -  Christopher Johnson, CEO of the Whitehorn Group, specializes in branding companies, products and people. He's been closely following the trend in marketing using facial recognition technology. "With cameras in stores, on streets, and in your hand, it's easy for all of our faces to be entered into someone's facial database."

Facial recognition software for marketing is here in a big way and getting bigger. Within the next 5 years, it's expected to be a 68 billion dollar market. Facebook alone is reported to be spending about 60 million on its own to be able to read faces. "But is that too much of a good thing?" asks Johnson. The way the systems work, it's not just your face that is captured, but also much of your personal information:

  • What kind of shoes and jeans you like
  • What you like to eat and drink
  • What clubs you go to
  • What airlines you like
  • Perhaps most troubling, even your Social Security number could be uncovered

Says Johnson, "From a marketer's point of view it's heaven. They can tailor ads, products, even prices based on your age, tax bracket, social media persona and purchasing habits. Marketers will pay handsomely for that information." For example, NEC has developed a marketing service utilizing facial recognition technology. It estimates the age and sex of customers, along with the dates and number of times that customers go to each store. This information is then analyzed to help predict trends in customer behavior and shopping frequency.

 "From a consumer's point of view this could be a nightmare -- the ultimate invasion of privacy."

Johnson continues, "I'm not just a brand strategist. I'm also a consumer. And I'd like to speak with the voice of reason. New technology can offer enormous benefits. It also comes with enormous responsibility." Johnson firmly believes we are collectively charged with that responsibility. We have to ensure this facial recognition technology does not become an all out assault on our privacy. "Do we want our children to be added to these facial databases? Probably not. Do we ourselves want to be added without our knowledge or permission? Probably not."

Just as the FCC has a Do Not Call Registry which enables people to register their phones so telemarketers are unable to call them, Johnson highly recommends we look at a Do Not Face Registry where you can opt out of any facial recognition program used by marketers. Or as Johnson puts it, "Unlist my face." Of course, if you do want tailored ads and offers, you can always opt in.

One consumer-friendly use of facial recognition technology is by EyeBuyDirect. The technology allows the creation of a virtual eyeglass try-on room using one of your own photos. It allows shoppers to superimpose choices of eyeglasses onto themselves. The system also allows for feedback with fellow shoppers across EyeBuyDirect's social network.

Johnson concludes, "This is an extraordinary opportunity to communicate directly with a consumer audience. Just let's not make it a free-for-all. Or it will be freedom for none."

About Christopher Johnson

Christopher Johnson is CEO of the Whitehorn Group. Mr. Johnson is a highly regarded authority on leveraging intellectual brand capital and creating innovative products that change markets. His focus is primarily in the global consumer marketplace using ground breaking global retail and e-commerce channels to penetrate markets, change consumer preference and influence behavior and establish worldwide distribution. Johnson attended Carnegie Mellon University where he won the Tholenheimer Award and McCurdy Prize. 

About Whitehorn Group

Whitehorn is a premier full-service brand identity firm that combines strategic insight, innovation and implementation know-how to deliver imaginative profit-focused solutions designed to get results. Their capabilities include Branding, Product Development and Digital Marketing.

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