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Tesco to target consumers with face-scanning technology

Graeme Parton

Supermarket giant Tesco is set to scan its customers’ faces in order to determine which advertisements are  played while they’re present.

The technology, which has been made available by Amscreen, Lord Alan Sugar’s digital signage firm, will see in-built cameras used to identify the gender and rough age of each person who visits one of Tesco’s petrol stations. The screens will then show advertisements based on this information.

According to Tesco, the screens will be used in all 450 of its petrol stations across the UK.

Simon Sugar, chief executive of Amscreen and eldest son of Lord Sugar, compared the equipment to the technology seen in hit sci-fi film Minority Report, but said it could well have a significant impact on retail in Britain. He also explained that his company is looking to agree deals with a number of other UK supermarkets.

A spokesperson from Tesco, however, explained that the technology is nothing new and that none of the images or data collected will be kept. They also pointed out that the equipment will not use facial recognition technology or eyeball scanners.

Tesco also explained that the technology wouldn’t be able to work out a person’s gender based on the length of their hair.

Some experts have said, however, that businesses need to be careful if they decide to use such targeting techniques.

Big Brother Watch’s Nick Pickles said:

“If people were told that every time they walked into a supermarket, or a doctor’s surgery or a law firm, that the CCTV camera in the corner is trying to find out who they are, I think that will have a huge impact on what buildings people go into.”

Here at Pressroom, we’re certainly interested to see whether the technology will make its way into other areas of advertising. With Samsung’s eye-scrolling technology being used on its latest smartphones, there’s certainly a chance that mobile users could soon be profiled with their devices’ front-facing cameras. This would certainly affect the way content is produced and targeted.

Graeme has experience creating content for online sources and for the radio, and at university he studied Multimedia Journalism.

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