Tesco face-scanning ad screens raise privacy concerns

Privacy groups raise concerns about Tesco’s plan to scan customers' faces in petrol stations for customised advertisements

Privacy groups have raised concerns about Tesco’s plans to use screens that scan customers' faces in petrol stations to display customised advertisements.

The OptimEyes screens have been developed by Alan Sugar’s Amscreen and will be deployed at Tesco’s 450 petrol stations, according to The Grocer.

The screens, developed in partnership with face-detection firm Quividi, are predicted to reach a weekly audience of more than five million adults.

Peter Cattell, category director for Tesco petrol stations, said the company is always looking to work with partners who provide innovative ways to enhance the customer shopping experience.

“This new dynamic screen product from Amscreen provides the perfect means for us to do this,” Cattell said.

The technology is designed to give advertisers real-time information on how many people of what gender and age group are viewing their ads at a given time of day.

Privacy groups have raised concerns, saying such systems should not be used without first getting customers’ consent, according to the Guardian.

“The only way the systems can be ethically deployed is if consumers opt in to have their image stored and their behaviour tracked, rather than there being no choice in the matter,” said Nick Pickles, director of privacy group Big Brother Watch.

Facial recognition technology is getting more advanced all the time, he said, and while people are queuing to pay for groceries, cameras could be scanning who they are.

However, Amscreen CEO Simon Sugar denies that the technology invades privacy. According to Amscreen’s website, the OptimEyes Screens do not store images or recognise people, but merely work out gender and age group to tailor ads.

The technology is also designed to tailor ads according to the time of day, location and special events such as the Fifa World Cup.

Sugar said the OptimEyes Screens could change the face of UK retail and his company plans to put the technology into as many supermarkets as possible.

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