I guess it’s sunglasses all the time now
November 9, 2015 4:27 PM   Subscribe

Facial recognition software is increasingly being deployed in the retail sector. Stores say this helps them achieve 2 main goals: identify shoplifters, and target high-spending customers.

Retailers are reluctant to admit whether they use facial recognition software. The only company that acknowledged using the software was Walmart. However, this practice was discontinued earlier this year.

From Fortune: “People see tagging in Facebook and Shutterfly. But I don’t think they’re fully aware that when they walk into a retailer, their face might be scanned and added to a database.”

FaceFirst explains its technology architecture thus (enlarged graphic).

Previously: 1, 2
posted by cynical pinnacle (87 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
 
I'll just leave this here.
posted by slater at 4:35 PM on November 9, 2015 [37 favorites]


Seriously the worst "architecture" diagram ever.

Anyway, I thought the hotness was wifi MAC tracking via your smartphone or sweet-talking consumers to install your app which tracks their in-store activity with BLE beacons. Face identification seems pretty error-prone in comparison to those.
posted by GuyZero at 4:38 PM on November 9, 2015 [6 favorites]


A friend of mine deconstructed a very popular soda vending machine (one of the kinds with a giant LCD instead of a window) and was able to show that it has a camera and some attempt at facial recognition software. Apparently it is billed as a way to market different sodas by age group/gender. She also said it really didn't work well at all and was pretty much pointless. But that's in 2015. In 2025 it'll probably know your name, your individual preferences, and what you've already had to drink that day.
posted by miyabo at 4:41 PM on November 9, 2015 [3 favorites]


It's only a redundant part of a larger system. If you have a smart phone, for instance, retailers can accomplish pretty much the same thing. A "loyalty" card? Same.
posted by indubitable at 4:48 PM on November 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


Hey, John Anderton!
posted by Omon Ra at 4:52 PM on November 9, 2015 [3 favorites]


If I'm reading that architecture diagram right, the biometric template encoding servers, matching servers, watchlist servers, and alerting servers are all disconnected from any network, and there's two firewalls in place to protect the internet from the rest of this product. Which is composed of a SQL database, monitoring server, switch, and a camera.
posted by mrgoat at 4:53 PM on November 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


Uses for the burka, or hajib, or

If you're goin' to San Francisco
Be sure to wear some flowers
In your hair, all over your face,
If you're goin' to San Francisco.

No, officer, I'm just feelin' groovy.
posted by Oyéah at 4:53 PM on November 9, 2015 [3 favorites]


I have to ask, what's it all for? Who is made more safe by this? Do most of us even have pockets to pick, anymore?
posted by Oyéah at 4:55 PM on November 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


Share and enjoy!
posted by Ickster at 4:56 PM on November 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


It's just like that Tom Cruise movie based on a Philip K. Dick novel...Risky Business, I think, was the name.
posted by Cookiebastard at 4:57 PM on November 9, 2015 [22 favorites]


You're thinking of The Man in the Top Gun. Or, possibly, The Three Stigmata of Jerry Maguire.
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:02 PM on November 9, 2015 [30 favorites]


Sunglasses and/or dazzle makeup.

Reading this, I'm a bit surprised it's not more common already. It's so clearly valuable. The moral equivalent is now commonplace with license plate scanners. At least, police departments are regularly scanning all plates in towns now, I wouldn't be surprised if store shopping lots are too. Faces are a little harder but not much.
posted by Nelson at 5:08 PM on November 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


It's a bit weird, but wearing a hazmat suit wherever I go decreases the chance of facial recognition AND for some reason there are never any lines when I go to check out.
posted by Nanukthedog at 5:10 PM on November 9, 2015 [17 favorites]


I wouldn't be surprised if store shopping lots are too

If they're not, I had been thinking of how useful it would be for shoplifting investigations at stores. Log every plate as they come in. Keep a list of employee plates. When there is shoplifting note the plates in the parking lot. After a few times, you could narrow down likely suspects, and even have the system notify you when a suspect's comes into the lot.
posted by drezdn at 5:13 PM on November 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


meh, license plate scanners cost money, data storage costs money and mall themselves are not on the hook for thefts from stores. And most malls have a lot of ingress/egress points to try to minimize bottlenecks during peak periods. For the police to do it is a different question as there's a much clearer benefit - if they solve a few car thefts or make an arrest every week it's probably more than paid for itself versus hiring a human police officer. And they only need to equip a few cars with plate scanners to cover a pretty large area.

That said, yeah, probably some mall is going to implement it at some point.
posted by GuyZero at 5:22 PM on November 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


Keep a list of employee plates.

At the Westfield Mall in San Jose they don't even let employees park in the mall lot of weekends. I was there Saturday and there were signs up all over the place that it was mandatory-employees-use-the-shuttle-day.
posted by GuyZero at 5:23 PM on November 9, 2015


From Fortune: “People see tagging in Facebook and Shutterfly. But I don’t think they’re fully aware that when they walk into a retailer, their face might be scanned and added to a database.”

Given that there have been rumors since at least 2013 that Facebook is selling facial recognition data to surveillance vendors of various kinds, there may be a direct relationship between the visible and invisible aspects of this.
posted by ryanshepard at 5:24 PM on November 9, 2015 [5 favorites]


Uses for the burka, or hajib, or
Sunglasses and/or dazzle makeup.


As with so many things, William Gibson beat us to the punch. In 2010's Zero History, a character is given a shirt with a certain distorted design that causes CCTV cameras to ignore the wearer due to an agreement between British and American intelligence agencies.
posted by Sangermaine at 5:29 PM on November 9, 2015 [17 favorites]


Nelson: "police departments are regularly scanning all plates in towns now, I wouldn't be surprised if store shopping lots are too"

Jokes on them, I walk to the supermarket.

drezdn: "When there is shoplifting note the plates in the parking lot."

I really doubt the inventory control is granular enough for this. IE: Some shoplifting happens everyday. Is anyone doing inventory more than once or twice a day?
posted by Mitheral at 5:35 PM on November 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


I think this dazzle makeup idea is unethical, because there's a tacit agreement that when you go into a store you are going to be marketed to. If they can't market to you, they can't stay in business and there won't be stores any more.
posted by Cookiebastard at 5:37 PM on November 9, 2015 [50 favorites]


I've spent most of my career either working for the corporate offices of some of the biggest retail chains in the US / world, or doing management consulting with the same, and I can say with some authority that the majority of retailers are SO EFFING FAR away from being anywhere close to being able to implement and utilize this technology in a cost-effective (let alone profitable) manner that I will be impressed if we see it become a big retail trend in the next 2 decades.

Seriously, many of these companies are still making the transition from ERP green-screen systems (you know, the ones the airline agents take so damn long to key weird string codes into to move from screen to screen?) to more modern ways of managing their traditional buying and planning and assorting and distribution and what-have-you systems.

This will happen in our lifetimes but not soon in them. By the time our kids our are age, it's Minority Report all the way down.
posted by allkindsoftime at 5:41 PM on November 9, 2015 [12 favorites]


Am I the only one who *likes* targeted marketing? I'm going to be advertised to regardless -- might as well be for something I might actually want.
posted by Jacqueline at 5:43 PM on November 9, 2015 [5 favorites]


And most malls have a lot of ingress/egress points to try to minimize bottlenecks during peak periods.

I'm sorry, I should have mentioned my idea was meant for stand-alone stores.


I really doubt the inventory control is granular enough for this.


The places I've worked, we usually knew when shoplifting was happening and sometimes even who was doing it, but it had been hard to get enough proof/info to get the police to act on it (individual incidents needed to be over $400 to get the police involved-- at stores without an assets protection team)
posted by drezdn at 5:52 PM on November 9, 2015 [3 favorites]


Face identification seems pretty error-prone in comparison to those.

Face identification is pretty error-prone in comparison to face identification itself. It never works, there is a suspicious number of people who keep throwing money at it to work, and "identifying big spenders" is laughably far down even that road.

This is pure growth-babble for shareholders, I suspect. Of course they don't want to say whether or what they're using, that would enable people to gauge performance and figure out if they're spending wisely (they aren't).
posted by rhizome at 5:56 PM on November 9, 2015 [3 favorites]


High-speed megapixels
posted by rhizome at 6:03 PM on November 9, 2015


If you have a smart phone, for instance, retailers can accomplish pretty much the same thing. A "loyalty" card? Same.

It's easy enough to leave the phone at home and use loyalty cards only once before giving them away to more loyal shoppers. Dazzle makeup seems like far too much work. Sunglasses won't work at all; they'll still be able to identify where your face is, and if you wear the same ones all the time yours will be more easily recognizable than most faces. It's going to take some preparation to be ready for the day when this technology actually works and becomes unavoidable.

Now is the time to start accumulating a large collection of latex prosthetic noses.
posted by sfenders at 6:13 PM on November 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


In 2025 it'll probably know your name, your individual preferences, and what you've already had to drink that day.

hahaha vending machine have I got a surprise for you.
posted by 7segment at 6:19 PM on November 9, 2015 [4 favorites]


> causes CCTV cameras to ignore the wearer due to an agreement between British and American intelligence agencies.

...and marks you as a person of interest to the SVR. Do-Not-Track hides you from advertisers and flags you to the FBI. Encryption protects your secrets from your neighbors and ISP while getting the NSA's attention.

Protecting your privacy only works if everybody is Spartacus.
posted by morganw at 6:24 PM on November 9, 2015 [3 favorites]


I doubt that tracking is a big worry (unless someone aggregates all the shops). It's really another way for the 1% to walk all over the plebes. Watch the salesperson who's been helping you drop you like a radioactive lump of clay and go bow and scrape to the big fish who just walked in the door.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 6:36 PM on November 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


My purse was open on my desk and a small portrait of my daughter was half-revealed in a card holder pocket. I took a picture of it. I posted the image of my open purse to Facebook as "What moms do." Facebook identified her and tagged her as with me, in the image.
posted by Oyéah at 6:47 PM on November 9, 2015 [6 favorites]


"loyalty" card? Same.

867-5309
posted by the man of twists and turns at 7:02 PM on November 9, 2015 [4 favorites]


Oyéah the probable sample set there was really small. I'd bet 99% of pictures posted are of people in their friends lists and that it skews heavily to immediate family. They probably could just guess with no other information and be right 20% of the time.
posted by Mitheral at 7:32 PM on November 9, 2015


Immediate practical uses aren't what really matters. Storage is cheap, data is valuable, and artificial intelligences are progressing so rapidly that it's difficult to predict what that data will be used for in the near future. But one constant is that sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from paranoid delusions. (Compare and contrast current technologies with influencing machines.)

Nobody really thought your personal data mattered much at all until those infernal data aggregation sites started popping up on the public internet, offering up your personal information to anyone with $4. But by the time that happened, it was too late. Everyone had already given up their names and addresses and contacts already, and now they're giving up their biometrics because they can't imagine how that could be abused efficiently and on a wide scale.

Things like this seem kind of insignificant and boring and fiddly until they don't. People need to start caring before someone comes up with ways to exploit their data, not after.
posted by ernielundquist at 7:36 PM on November 9, 2015 [10 favorites]


At least, police departments are regularly scanning all plates in towns now, I wouldn't be surprised if store shopping lots are too. Faces are a little harder but not much.

This could be more discreetly and more accurately accomplished by fingerprinting the TPMS modules present in most recent cars and legally mandated as of the 2008 model year in the US.
posted by indubitable at 7:45 PM on November 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


My wife's parents have done Ancestry.com and so did mine apparently. I looked at them pointed out that while yes, now they can find their 3rd cousin 56 times removed that they had done so at the potential detriment to their grand children's health and safety should insurance laws flop allowing companies the right to deny or over-charge customers for pre-existing and/or genetically likely diseases.

They said, "But its fun" which to me was like that scene in Spinal Tap where they insist the amps go to 11.
posted by Nanukthedog at 8:22 PM on November 9, 2015 [4 favorites]


sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from paranoid delusions.

What's the difference between 1995 and 2015?

Person in 1995: "I think my TV is spying on me."
A: "OK, we are going to take you to a psychiatrist and get you some medication."

Person in 2015: "I think my TV is spying on me."
A: "You should contact my brother-in-law, he works in IT and can fix you up with an internal firewall."
posted by fings at 8:42 PM on November 9, 2015 [20 favorites]


Isn't gait recognition supposed to be more reliable than facial recognition? Or am I mistaking my near future SF for reality?
posted by thedward at 9:16 PM on November 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


Do most of us even have pockets to pick, anymore?

Tell me about your mysterious future pants.
posted by Going To Maine at 9:27 PM on November 9, 2015 [11 favorites]


Oyéah: "Facebook identified her and tagged her as with me, in the image."

The other day Facebook tagged my partner's nephew in a photo she posted of the monkeys in Launceston. In photos he's actually in, it usually tags him as his sister (and, earlier this year, tagged a bunch of Christmas tree decorations as her).

It ain't that bright…
posted by Pinback at 10:04 PM on November 9, 2015 [3 favorites]


Isn't gait recognition supposed to be more reliable than facial recognition?

Dammit. Everyone comments on how they can spot me a mile away by my walk. No idea what's so unique about it, but apparently it is so. Never crossed my mind that it'd make it easier for cameras to ID me.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:06 PM on November 9, 2015


You can tell the Plebes, they have no pockets. The middle class lives on Hot Pockets. You know the rest have rockets in their pockets, and private security to maintain them by any means.
posted by Oyéah at 10:06 PM on November 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


Uses for the burka, or hajib...

Hmmm.... Could this have been the real reason the late Harper government was so opposed to the wearing of these garments?
posted by e-man at 10:13 PM on November 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


You can consider your data completely, fully, exploited in ways you can't imagine. Really. You go on a dating site, hook up with someone in the biz. You think you chose the datee, but using sophisticated algorithms generated by your searches, and posts, datee X, actually chose your financials, your appearance, and has been closing in for a while. It just took some time and proper bait. Datee X grew up in outer Bulgeistan, and worked a job forty years here. But Bulgeistan can't pay a decent retirement and Datee X is going to have yours, your whole lonely but well planned life, just long enough to alienate the neighbors, sell the place and retire elsewhere, like Cuba, for instance. Anyway, I digress, that is the small potatoes version.
posted by Oyéah at 10:31 PM on November 9, 2015


"But that's in 2015. In 2025 it'll probably know your name, your individual preferences, and what you've already had to drink that day."

And then it'll produce a liquid that is almost, but not quite, entirely unlike tea.
posted by Hairy Lobster at 10:39 PM on November 9, 2015 [14 favorites]


This will be a thing at Starbucks within five years, if it isn't already. Our success with customer data collection is huge and, at least internally, we're quite proud of it.
posted by landunderwave at 11:11 PM on November 9, 2015


Tim Sherratt gave a great talk on this at New Zealand's National Digital Forum recently. Well worth the watch.
posted by analoghotdog at 12:05 AM on November 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


That Tim Sherratt talk is definitely worth a listen. "Identifiers are not the same thing as identity." Indeed.

There's a bitter irony in the history of Web 2.0, where the human need to search for and assert an identity (whether through Facebook or sites like Ancestry and 23 and Me) has provided states and corporations with huge data sets they can use to identify us all for the purposes of surveillance and control. It's an increasingly Foucauldian world out there. We need to push back against corporate or pop-cultural constructions of identity, because they are ultimately tools for marketing and enforced compliance, not the liberation of the soul.
posted by Sonny Jim at 1:06 AM on November 10, 2015 [5 favorites]


Dammit. Everyone comments on how they can spot me a mile away by my walk. No idea what's so unique about it, but apparently it is so.

It's not so much that it's unique, it's that we can tell by the way you use your walk, you're a woman's man: no time to talk.
posted by rhizome at 1:28 AM on November 10, 2015 [24 favorites]


KNOWN BIOSIGNATURE DETECTED. KNOWN BIOSIGNATURE DETECTED. AH, AH, AH. KNOWN BIOSIGNATURE DETECTED.
posted by No-sword at 1:52 AM on November 10, 2015 [4 favorites]


If I'm anything to go by (and I'm almost certainly not), traditional retailers are screwed anyhow. I shop Amazon over Target because the clerks are more polite. I shop Amazon over Home Depot because I can actually find the tool I want, usually more quickly. I shop Amazon for clothes because they actually stock sizes that fit me. In a few cases, I'm shopping Amazon for food.

Yeah, they track me eleventy-gazillion different ways, but damn if it isn't convenient.
posted by DaveP at 2:33 AM on November 10, 2015


...and marks you as a person of interest to the SVR. Do-Not-Track hides you from advertisers and flags you to the FBI. Encryption protects your secrets from your neighbors and ISP while getting the NSA's attention.

I wonder whether using Tor is technically probable cause for search and seizure. If the authorities don't have time limits within which they must return seized computers, they can just theoretically sweep for all Tor users, fill warehouses with seized equipment and allocate two or three staff members over the next ten years to searching them for paedoterrist contraband (and a few members for discreetly returning the equipment of anybody liable to produce the right kind of political complications). As a bonus: they get a chilling effect on surveillance-evasion technologies without actually outlawing them.
posted by acb at 4:02 AM on November 10, 2015


Regularly shopping while wearing dazzle makeup, wide-brimmed hats and shades, and bulky clothing that camouflages your build is mostly going to make it really easy for the store to identify you. You'll be the That Guy to the checkout clerks and the greeters, and the manager on duty will have heard about you and already been informed that you're shy or don't speak English well or something and prefer not to be spoken to, otherwise she'd have a ready "Hello!" when she sees you.
posted by ardgedee at 4:36 AM on November 10, 2015


Oyéah: "Facebook identified her and tagged her as with me, in the image."

The other day Facebook tagged my partner's nephew in a photo she posted of the monkeys in Launceston. In photos he's actually in, it usually tags him as his sister (and, earlier this year, tagged a bunch of Christmas tree decorations as her).

It ain't that bright…


Being that I'm a huuuuge Muppets fan, my sister once tagged me in a photo of the Create-A-Muppet display at FAO Schwartz/Toys 'R' Us. Add in the fact that all my profile photos feature me looking away from the camera and Facebook has some very amusing ideas of what I look like.
posted by dances with hamsters at 5:28 AM on November 10, 2015


I kinda miss when you could defeat face recognition by just tilting your head about 15 degrees to the side. That said, my glasses and hair still seem to make most software think I've actually got a tiny Kuato face going on somewhere between my eyebrows and moustache.

> Am I the only one who *likes* targeted marketing?

Filtered ads would be great, I see plenty of ads for things I'm clearly not going to buy. The thing is, targeted ads mostly seem to be Microsoft Clippy intelligence level "Hey! It looks like you watched a single video about audio filters out of curiosity, wanna see nothing but ads for those for the next week?"
posted by lucidium at 5:43 AM on November 10, 2015 [5 favorites]


Filtered ads would be great, I see plenty of ads for things I'm clearly not going to buy. The thing is, targeted ads mostly seem to be Microsoft Clippy intelligence level "Hey! It looks like you watched a single video about audio filters out of curiosity, wanna see nothing but ads for those for the next week?"

And then there are Facebook and Twitter's attempts to drive engagement by hyping various topics it assumes a typical human in your demographic would like. “Hey human!”, the obnoxiously cheerful pep-droid blurts, “I heard humans like celebrities and sports, so here's some gossip about pop star couples and the latest sportsball results! Yay!”

Which is why I set my Twitter pep-feed location to Tokyo; I can't read Japanese, so am blissfully oblivious to the banalities it's spewing at me.
posted by acb at 5:57 AM on November 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


This will be a thing at Starbucks within five years, if it isn't already. Our success with customer data collection is huge and, at least internally, we're quite proud of it.

But if my name is Antoine, is my information in the database going to be keyed to Andy, Anthony, Anton, Aardvark, Ent, Intone, or Zebediah?
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:14 AM on November 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


This could be more discreetly and more accurately accomplished by fingerprinting the TPMS modules present in most recent cars and legally mandated as of the 2008 model year in the US.

How to rob a bank/commit a terrorist atrocity/have an affair: Step 1: buy an old car.

When old cars are outlawed, only outlaws will have old cars.
posted by acb at 6:17 AM on November 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


Am I the only one who *likes* targeted marketing?

Targetted marketing is one of those things that sort of works in aggregate but utterly fails most of the time on an individual level. Amazon, for instance, thinks I am interested in buying water filters, printer ink, gay fiction, men's watches, cycling accessories, crystal decanters, musicals on DVD, an archery bracer, a SATA cable, prepper books, essential oils, and Lysol. Um, no. It's like "smart" bombs that wind up blowing up hospitals anyway.
posted by Foosnark at 6:24 AM on November 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


It's just like that Tom Cruise movie based on a Philip K. Dick novel...Risky Business, I think, was the name.

You're thinking of The Man in the Top Gun. Or, possibly, The Three Stigmata of Jerry Maguire.


Tom Cruise in Confessions of a Crap Artist. This has to happen.
posted by lagomorphius at 6:48 AM on November 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


Targetted marketing is one of those things that sort of works in aggregate but utterly fails most of the time on an individual level. Amazon, for instance, thinks I am interested in buying water filters, printer ink, gay fiction, men's watches, cycling accessories, crystal decanters, musicals on DVD, an archery bracer, a SATA cable, prepper books, essential oils, and Lysol. Um, no. It's like "smart" bombs that wind up blowing up hospitals anyway.

That's been my experience. It's okay if I have a buying stint of things I'm actually using but it can get pretty hilarious when things that I've just been curious about, or clicked on for some other reason get mixed in.

I buy a lot of things online now since much of what I'm needing isn't available without driving for two hours and even then for many things I've learned I have to check first to make sure things are in stock. It's easier just to click and have things come to my door now.
posted by Jalliah at 6:59 AM on November 10, 2015


I think this dazzle makeup idea is unethical, because there's a tacit agreement that when you go into a store you are going to be marketed to. If they can't market to you, they can't stay in business and there won't be stores any more.

i honestly, sincerely can't tell if this post is a joke and it's killing me
posted by p3on at 7:39 AM on November 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


It's perfectly Poe-etic. Are people who claim ad-blockers are unethical joking? The claim is the same.

Edit: if that's still confusing look up "Poe's Law".
posted by five fresh fish at 7:54 AM on November 10, 2015


Huh. My Amazon recommendations are usually spot-on, with only the occasional weirdness caused by my husband buying car parts using my Prime account. And I find I click on the sponsored posts on Facebook at least as often as I click on my friends' posts.

Maybe my interests are just more generic and thus more easily targeted.
posted by Jacqueline at 8:15 AM on November 10, 2015


Some of the targeted Facebook ads for me are great: that band I love is touring or putting out a new album. Yay!
The other 99% are about having a baby, losing weight, diapers, formula, stupid shit that has nothing to do with me.

So my only recourse was to turn on AdBlock. And now I don't know when that band I love is touring or putting out a new album.

Dammit.
posted by jillithd at 8:25 AM on November 10, 2015


Like, right now Amazon thinks I need:
- a new Kindle with a bigger screen (yes, drool)
- various cookbooks (yes yes yes need all the cookbooks)
- various books about watercolor painting fairies (great gift idea for a friend)
- more Prismacolor pencils (can never have enough of those)
- a bunch of romance novels (my guilty pleasure)
- a meat cleaver (yes, been comparison-shopping those)
- color-coded cutting boards (how clever! thanks, Amazon targeted marketing, for making me aware of these)
- a digital meat thermometer (yes, although maybe not that specific one)
- some Star Wars stuff (great gift ideas for the niece and nephew)
- a set of ceramic nonstick pans (yes, although maybe I'll just get one for eggs instead of a whole set)

It made very few suggestions for stuff I have no interest in buying:
- a special sharpener for colored pencils (I already have several)
- a large colander (I already have one I like)
- a ladybug farm (??? this is the only one that is genuinely a mystery to me -- although I did buy a bunch of seamonkeys stuff from Amazon six years ago, so maybe this is related to that)

It's been a while since I scrolled through my entire Amazon front page like that and I immediately found six things that I'm now adding to my shopping cart or wish list. Sometimes I feel like Amazon knows me better than any of my family or friends. My 15+ year history with them certainly makes them one of the most long-lasting and stable relationships I've ever had in my life. I <3 you, Amazon!

Meanwhile, I currently hate browsing in brick-and-mortar stores because there's just so much crap to wander through. But it is nice to be able to see/touch things before buying and to get things TODAY instead of waiting 2-3 days for Prime shipping. So if facial recognition technology helps brick-and-mortar stores know me as well as Amazon knows me and thus direct me straight to the stuff I like/want/need, that would be a very welcome improvement to my life.
posted by Jacqueline at 8:46 AM on November 10, 2015


The other 99% are about having a baby, losing weight, diapers, formula, stupid shit that has nothing to do with me.

Have you posted anything that suggests that you are/were/might be having a baby? If so, prepare for 20 years of targeted ads, in waves around your hypothetical child's milestones.

I wonder if there are support groups for the parents of deceased children whose wounds are reopened every year with the inevitable barrage of back-to-school offers. Support groups or class-action lawsuits.
posted by acb at 8:53 AM on November 10, 2015


that would be a very welcome improvement to my life

If your aspiration is to become a revenue source, you'll be golden. Yay, consumerism! She who dies owning the most crap wins the game!
posted by five fresh fish at 8:58 AM on November 10, 2015


A lot of ads on Facebook seem to be age-targeted, which might explain the baby stuff. The day I turned 30 began the barrage of ads for infertility clinics in my hometown. So I'm guessing they were going after every married woman aged 30+ who did not yet have children. Those ads went on for a couple of years and finally stopped after I made Facebook accounts for all my pets and listed them as my sons and daughters.

Now Facebook mostly just wants me to buy pretty dresses (and I can't help but click on those ads -- the dresses really are very pretty!) or IT services using handsome bearded men as models (I don't need any IT services but the models are very tasty so I sometimes click those ads just so I'll keep seeing them).
posted by Jacqueline at 9:01 AM on November 10, 2015


I do wonder whether the prevalence of bearded men in my Facebook ads is just a coincidence or whether Facebook analyzed photos of my husband (our accounts are linked as spouses) and is now deliberately showing me ads featuring male models who fit my assumed "type."

If they are, yay! Score another point for targeted marketing, and bring on the legions of sexy hairy men in my sidebar!
posted by Jacqueline at 9:10 AM on November 10, 2015


Meanwhile, Amazon thinks I need:
  • Just Dance 4
  • About six billion variations on Singstar
  • Chelsea boots, in abundance
  • World of Warcraft
  • Tim Ross's Why the Tories Won
I don't even know what to think Amazon thinks about me.
posted by Sonny Jim at 9:22 AM on November 10, 2015


This will be a thing at Starbucks within five years, if it isn't already. Our success with customer data collection is huge and, at least internally, we're quite proud of it.

You're going to use that information to round up all the Christians as part of your War on Christmas, aren't you?
posted by entropicamericana at 9:23 AM on November 10, 2015


I like this game. Amazon recommends to me:

Super glue
Cassette tape cleaner
A kilogram of almonds
Dettol
A USB car charger
An Ace Attorney game
A pound of cat treats
Just For Men hair colour

I don't have a crack, a cassette player, a craving for nuts, any cleaning to do, a car, a cat, or colouration issues. The game would be nice, but I already own it.
posted by lucidium at 9:34 AM on November 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


Just checked to see if Facebook was still pushing dresses and bearded IT men. The dresses are still there, but alas, the handsome men are gone. Instead I've got ads for cat food, Marvel superhero bedsheets, Oreos on sale at my local Food Lion, an Awesome Yeti gallbladder mug, a local towing company, and a fan page for King Alistair Theirin.

While I can see how they'd think that all these things would be relevant to me, the dresses and Alistair fanpage are the only ones I'm actually interested in enough to click on. So Facebook has got a way to go before it knows me as well as Amazon does.
posted by Jacqueline at 9:36 AM on November 10, 2015


Oh my god, I was wrong. The Ace Attorney thing wasn't actually the game, it was a comic version of it. I hear your message Amazon, I'll find passage on a boat.
posted by lucidium at 9:39 AM on November 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


Drudge Report is probably where I've seen the biggest change over the years as they've adopted targeted marketing. A few years ago, their ads were always for things like whackadoodle goldbug "investments" and fundraising campaigns for candidates I would never support. Today they want me to buy polyurethane upholstery foam from Joann Fabrics.
posted by Jacqueline at 9:42 AM on November 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


Recently I have noticed that (outside of Amazon) I'm getting lots of ads for things I just bought. Which seems weird given that I already bought the thing.
posted by Hairy Lobster at 9:42 AM on November 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


Ooo now I have to check

Amazon recommends for me right now

The newest Lumber Janes, Some Star Wars Book, and a bunch other graphic novels. These are a all fine and things I'd actually want to see.

False Eyelashes
Some funky tweezers
A bunch of different lipsticks (never bought make up on amazon so not sure where these came from)

Spy and the Kingsmen DVD (nope...I don't buy DVDs)

Boot gators
Micro cleaning cloths
A couple of computer cleaning system thingys
A couple of Mad Max books I already own
A book on wilderness survival ??
Several books on Druidry ??? Okay those are really weird....

And a bunch of deals on food saver bags and containers.
posted by Jalliah at 9:45 AM on November 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


I meant to reply to this comment earlier and forgot:

Person in 1995: "I think my TV is spying on me."
A: "OK, we are going to take you to a psychiatrist and get you some medication."


So a month ago I had my quarterly medication management appointment with my psychiatrist. I mentioned how I've been exercising more since I got an Xbox Kinect. His response was, "Doesn't that thing let people spy on you through your TV?!"

1995 vs. 2015 indeed...

(In other facial recognition news, we've finally taught our Kinect to recognize our cat -- it amuses us when it greets her with "Hi Chunkers" whenever she jumps on the chair in front of the TV -- but the annoying downside of this is one of us now has to enter a password to give parental permission whenever we want to watch non-G-rated shows on Netflix with her in the room because we put our best guess for her actual birthdate in her profile.)
posted by Jacqueline at 9:58 AM on November 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


I maybe buy from Amazon once or twice a year when I accumulate enough fiddly little things I can't reasonably get anywhere else to qualify for free shipping. Currently, it is lying to me telling me that people who bought reusable zip ties also bought something like nine other kinds of reusable zip ties. No. No, they fucking did not, Amazon. You're lying and we both know it.

But profiles aren't all just innocuous purchasing history. I'd highly recommend reading this PDF testimony about data brokers and the sort of predictive analyses they use to categorize people. There are vast, secretive networks of companies out there that are guessing things like your medical history and whether you've been a victim of crime and trying to document at your real life social networks to make profiles and lists based on just about anything you can think of. And they'll sell these lists to just about anyone. They'll sell a list of people with suspected dementia to fraudsters. There are very few legal limits to what they can do, and the systems are so opaque that you really don't know what they're saying about you in the first place, so you can't even address it.

So you can't discriminate against someone because of their race or religion, for example, but you can, and many do, discriminate against people based on factors that strongly correlate to race or religion, which creates a sort of soft redlining system that can be used to accomplish the same thing as explicit redlining. And in the US, your actual medical history is protected by HIPAA, but guesses about your medical history are not, as many of the lists they sell demonstrate. So they're just selling inaccurate versions of your medical history, right on the open market.

And Facebook has been sued more than once by countries that actually have privacy laws, unlike the US, for creating 'shadow profiles' of people who don't have Facebook accounts. They're saving their personal data from things like contact scrapers and who knows what else. So if, like me, you don't have a Facebook profile, they can still get your information from anyone else you know who has it, and they can use that to create a profile of you that you can't even get access to yourself.

This is stuff that's already been going on for a long time now, and it's why I can all but guarantee you that whatever sloppy biometric data is being collected from things like this will be added to those types of profiles before long, if they're not there already.

And here's one of the most frustrating parts: I sound completely unhinged right now, don't I? If you try to tell people that it really wasn't cool of them to let some sketchy company scrape your contact info or even fill it in manually to some corporate database, the person who handed over your information will likely just assume you're some kind of crackpot and ignore your concerns. (This is why I have extended family members who have no longer allowed to have my email address.)
posted by ernielundquist at 10:11 AM on November 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


I really hate shilling products or services, but my Facebook experience is actually tolerable after installing SocialFixer.

Screenshot of an ad-free Facebook, with any identifying/personal info from the post I'm looking at erased.

I'm sure there are still targeted ads being fed to me somehow, but I can't see them.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 11:17 AM on November 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


Just checked....

Amazon thinks I need:

3 a/v receivers
2 sound bars (would never buy those)
a wireless subwoofer
a ton of tv wall mount brackets
Pedro's Bicycle Tire Lever
a bicycle light set
enough HDMI cables to wire every room in my house
spigot assembly for water containers
surge protectors
water carrier
16 gauge speaker wire
HDMI angle adapters
water purifier tablets

apparently I really need to hydrate properly while enjoying my new home theater setup.

Funny thing is I did upgrade a bunch of AV equipment recently. However I didn't buy any of that stuff from Amazon.
posted by Hairy Lobster at 11:21 AM on November 10, 2015


Hey ernielundquist, you do not sound unhinged to me.

Here are a couple of rulings that give me *slight* hope. I am under no illusion that it may very well be a losing war, but I'll celebrate any win we get.

Facebook news via Tom's Hardware (I hope the ruling will be upheld on appeal):
"Facebook lost another privacy-related case in Europe, this time against a privacy watchdog in Belgium, which claimed that Facebook was breaking Belgian law by tracking people who didn't have Facebook accounts. Facebook said it will appeal the ruling, but until then, it faces a 250,000 euro fine per day if it doesn't stop tracking non-Facebook users within the next 48 hours.

The issue at hand is that Facebook has been using what it calls the "datr" cookie since 2011, when it started tracking non-users of Facebook through "Like" buttons and on the Web. You can get tracked by Facebook not only if you are logged in to your Facebook account, but also if you have no Facebook account at all and you simply happen to visit a website that has Facebook Like buttons on it."
NSA news via Reuters:
"A U.S. federal judge on Monday for the first time ordered the National Security Agency to cease collecting the phone call records of a lawyer and his firm, providing an unprecedented but narrow and largely symbolic victory to privacy advocates."
posted by cynical pinnacle at 12:10 PM on November 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


I scan through the stored cookies on my machine on a regular basis and remove all those that don't do something useful for me (like remember sign on and such details) for sites I use regularly.
posted by Burn_IT at 3:32 PM on November 10, 2015


Everybody should change their Facebook profile photo to a picture of Ronald Reagan.

We all then agree to help each other out and say "It was me!" when the FBI comes knocking on one of our Facebook friends' door after Patrick Swayze has robbed a bank.
posted by Captain Fetid at 4:26 PM on November 10, 2015


Everybody should change their Facebook profile photo to a picture of Ronald Reagan

I just might do that for lulz. However, it won't help if your friends have photos of you in their smartphone. A new Facebook feature announced this week will allow Facebook to identify photos not even uploaded to the site. This seems akin to letting sites access your entire address book. Article from Fortune:

"The social network has begun testing a new feature, dubbed “Photo Magic,” which will scan a user’s camera roll on their smartphone and notify them when it finds a photo of their Facebook friends they haven’t uploaded yet.

However, the new feature will likely raise concerns over privacy as Facebook tries to gain access to user’s digital content outside its own walls."
posted by cynical pinnacle at 7:19 AM on November 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


There must be people out there spending a lot of time maintaining a in depth fake profile for lulz rather than workplace privacy. Like only up loading pictures of porn stars and tagging them as relatives. I wonder what kind of recommendations they get.
posted by Mitheral at 3:44 PM on November 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


Your (Vizio) TV is spying on you.
posted by fings at 6:53 AM on November 12, 2015


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