Saturday, October 2, 2010


Intelligent Billboard
Description of Issue.
Some advertisers are now using intelligent digital billboards. These billboards utilize video cameras which videotape consumers watching the ads. The cameras utilize cognitive facial recognition that can determine the gender, age range, and ethnicity of a viewer. This information can then be used to determine the content of the advertisement best suited to the particular viewer. Some cameras can even attempt to discern people's emotional reactions to the billboard’s content. The cameras work by using software which analyzes facial features (like cheekbone height and the distance between the nose and the chin) to judge the person’s gender and age. The technology can even determine a person’s race. These systems can accurately determine a person’s gender 85-90% of the time. Although observation cameras are common in banks, stores and office buildings, their presence takes on an entirely different meaning when used to market products. While intelligent billboard technology may be a welcome marketing tool for advertisers, it will likely create issues of public acceptance.
Looking Ahead. Intelligent billboard technology is easily susceptible to "function creep” or “mission creep." Technologies initially envisioned for one purpose may then push the boundaries and be utilized for expanded and even unrelated purposes. Once the technology is operational, it could be used for completely unrelated purposes, such as surveillance. The companies that make these systems say that with a slight technological addition, they could easily store pictures of people who look at these billboards. Technology could then enable tracking of individuals across their lives. Pushed by the demands of advertisers and security-minded governments, these technologies are easily susceptible to abuse. Real time matches can be found with faces stored in databases in under a second, although complete accuracy is not yet guaranteed.

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