If you have read anything about Facedeals, the new facial recognition check-in app created by Nashville ad agency Redpepper, chances are you have seen the comparisons drawn between this app and the futuristic world depicted in the 2002 film Minority Report. And while some simply marvel at the prospect of fictional technology seemingly come to life, others use these comparisons to conjure up images of a world of reduced privacy, a world in which they would rather not live.
Just what is the purpose of this new app that has some of us fearing the beginnings of a dystopian society? Why, to get you a free drink, of course.
At least that is what is being depicted in this video, which is a promotional spot explaining just how Facedeals works.
In summary, Facedeals cameras with the capability of recognizing opted-in users are placed outside of certain businesses. Once a user is sufficiently recognized, Facedeals technology sends a customized deal to the user's mobile device based on their Facebook "Like" history, while simultaneously checking them in. Sounds easy, right?
According to Redpepper, who consider themselves both an ad agency and an invention lab, this sort of check-in technology is a great untapped resource, which, when used effectively, can benefit both patron and business owner alike. As Redpepper CEO Tim McMullen explained to me in an email:
This particular technology ensures that businesses will no longer wonder which offers will be effective. Patrons will no longer plan outings with a deal-a-day mindset, but can simply frequent their favorite places and count on being rewarded.
However, for privacy advocates, that drink you receive at the bar may cost you something more valuable than money. This was the sentiment conveyed by Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic and Privacy Information Center (EPIC), who expressed his concerns to CNN's Brian Todd in an interview: "People will find that their personal information will become quickly available to the stores they are visiting."
Not knowing just how much of this personal information will be made available is a cause for concern not only for privacy groups, but for many in the blogosphere as well. Given the widespread nature of this concern, I asked Tim McMullen what level of privacy one can expect, given that some data is indeed collected by retailers. His answer in email: "Our intention is that the level of information shared would be guided by consumer preferences and comfort level."
For those who are not exactly put at ease by this, Redpepper points out that Facedeals is exclusively an opt-in service. If something about Facedeals makes one uneasy, then by all means they should not utilize the service.
If early reactions in cyberspace are any indication, one could argue that Facedeals will find itself in an uphill climb from here on out. Still, I wonder if these initial privacy concerns will really curtail users from opting in with the hope of obtaining deals and freebies. As an Internet Evolution reader, I am all too familiar with the privacy concerns that surround some apps on Facebook, and even Facebook itself. However, that doesn't stop me (or some others I see 'round these parts) from making use of them.
Maybe Facedeals, with its similarities to the works of Phillip K. Dick, will be different. Somehow, though, I think we will be opting in regular as clockwork when we get the chance. And if that is the case, then I would be delighted to have you join me for a free drink sometime.
— Christopher Olson is a freelance writer based in New Jersey.