|Updated: 3/13/2012 8:00 am
||Published: 3/12/2012 10:34 am
It's Friday night, you walk into a new bar. They check your id, but that's not all they may be checking. A growing number of bars and other businesses are using facial recognition software.
Cnet's editor Rafe Needleman says some malls are also testing the technology.
"It's helpful to businesses who want to know who their customers are," Needleman said. "They will recognize your age or your gender so if you walk up to a display wall at a retail establishment or mall or something like that and if you're a mid 40s white guy, maybe they'll give you an ad for a BMW. If you're a woman, 20's, maybe you'll get an ad for something else."
Needleman believes it's a matter of time before stores start using technology that not only recognizes but tracks your spending habits.
"So when you walk in a store it might know who you are just when you walk in and give you deals based on your past purchases," Needleman said.
Not everyone wants that kind of information recorded and shared.
Privacy is one of the biggest concerns the Federal Trade Commission has with this technology. Take a recent study at Carnegie Mellon, for example.
"They took photos from a dating site where people were anonymous or using pseudonyms and they also got information from a social networking site where they had in general people's real name,” Mark Eichorn of the FTC said. “Using facial recognition technology they were able to identify a lot of those users who were anonymous on the dating site."
And while bars that are using this technology now say it's a marketing tool -
"What's being used right now are apps that will look at a biz, say a bar, and see how many men versus women there are, or their ages, so you can see what the scene is like at the bar," Needleman said.
So it's not just a privacy issue, but safety as well. The FTC is worried about where this technology can take us.
"Is it a notice and consent model like we have online,” Eichorn said. “Are there places it shouldn't be permitted, like in bathrooms?"
Until that's all ironed out, Needleman says anything is possible.
"It's not out of the question that ten years from now we'll walk down the street and people will be wearing camouflage so they're not picked up by facial recognition trackers all over the place," Needleman said.
The FTC has taken community feedback on this issue in the past several months and is considering publishing recommendations for businesses to follow.