I’ll be chatting with CTV News Channel’s Todd van der Heyden about Facedeals later this afternoon.
In case you hadn’t heard, Facedeals (being promoted by Nashville ad agency Redpepper) is designed to connect with Facebook to automate the process of location check-in and connecting the business and patron to dispense deals. The technology hinges on a camera (mounted at the entrance of a business) which will use passive facial recognition software to identify the person based on tagged photos in their Facebook profile. In theory, the process only works with Facebook users who have authorized Facedeals to access their profile. Once the connection is made, the general or even targeted deal will be sent to the customer’s smartphone.
Here’s why I think Facedeals is a bad idea.
1) Facedeals will photograph everyone and only determine if the individual qualifies for a deal from the business based on authorizations. That doesn’t mean the data isn’t going to be collected and used to otherwise analyze consumer behaviour. There is an obvious privacy violation at play for those uninterested in being tracked.
2) There’s always the possibility Facedeals could make false identifications of participants? So, someone looking like me entering a pub in New York might cause Facedeals to check me in to that location (even though I’m at my office in Ottawa) and offer me a free beverage intended for someone else.
3) Automating the check-in means people who can access my Facebook profile can track and publicize my movements throughout the day. This is a significant privacy violation — albeit one that involves consent. The reason why check-ins haven’t taken off is because people are generally selective over which establishments they want to be seen checking into.
There’s a distinction between knowing a security camera is ensuring the merchandise and people in the business are safe, and a camera automating the upsell. If there is a market for Facedeals, I’d guess service businesses such as pubs, restaurants and coffee shops are likely candidates — perhaps those close to university and college campuses. Otherwise, my feeling is most businesses will recognize this as crossing a line with their loyal customer base and won’t risk upsetting their community with a bright blue camera on full display at the entrance.