Facial Recognition (FR) is a sensitive and controversial topic today. The ongoing debate ensues because of issues surrounding use by the police and intelligence service agencies such as the CIA and FBI as well as basic human rights to privacy.
My initial thoughts were that the issues are very similar to CCTV (closed caption TV). If you’re conducting yourself in a decent way, what is the problem? Indeed, who can argue that if a good Facial Recognition system linked to a full AI back-end had managed to stop any one of the recent terrorist atrocities, then any loss of privacy to achieve this would be worthwhile?
Multi-facets of FR
Now, after reading various articles and listening to different views on the subject I understand the true complexity of the issue. Clearly, Facial Recognition is still in infancy and accuracy mistakes abound, as well as the wider privacy issues. This is why the San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted 8 to 1 to prevent the police and other public agencies from using Facial Recognition.
Initially, I thought this was really surprising being at the heart of Silicon Valley, but the logic can’t be argued: the technology is new, and no one has had time to look at all the issues in a calm and measured way. Therefore, having become more educated, I believe FR for public applications from airports to wider everyday use, should be put on hold for now. Some airlines are moving too quickly to push Facial Recognition to speed the boarding process, and then make it difficult to opt-out. That’s unacceptable, becomes negative PR, destroying any Marketing message that could be wrapped around such a development.
FR in Marketing
Untangling from all these thorny issues, let’s talk about Marketing, which is infinitely easier to control. Naturally, there are some great applications of FR – Who doesn’t like avoiding the password scramble when opening your iPhone or iPad or a specific application using Facial Recognition even in low light? This is a great step forward in the user experience category and makes life easier.
In my world, the best Marketing application is providing an optimal experience when checking people in for events. In this situation, facial images are retained during the event for this purpose and then discarded later, thus avoiding any of the privacy issues raised in the wider public debate. The Zenus application is a great example of this, where you have the opportunity to opt out right from the start and use traditional registration and badge collection processes if you are concerned in any way. The key is communication on how the system works and clear information to confirm that facial recognition is only used for this short term application, not beyond.
Future of FR in Lead Capture
Lead capture systems such as Zuant used by exhibitors, adapt to the system like a Chameleon to suit whatever badges are used whether a QR Code, other forms of 2-D barcode, or NFC (near-field communication). Wouldn’t it be nice to ask a visitor to your booth if they minded being scanned, which then could map to their LinkedIn profile to pull that data into the Sales lead data with an instant background of someone’s current role or interests?
Facial Recognition could become your new business card if you opt into it so there is no breach of privacy. This application is much smoother from the exhibitor and visitor points of view. At the same time, it is much easier to engage in a deeper conversation knowing a person’s background.
The key to leveraging FR in Marketing is a one-time use. Marketers must ensure one-time use is enforced, and combine this seamlessly with a GDPR-style opt-in and preference center to ensure FR is only used as the entry point to the overall process.
No doubt Facial Recognition could be a much smoother process for a wide range of applications. When it comes to retaining your personal biometric details within a government agency or police environment, we’re stepping into a dangerous situation where Big Brother is literally watching you. This is not progress, but rather a frightening regression of society as we know it.