Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Digital Signs and Privacy

Harley Geiger from the Center for Democracy and Technology has posted an excellent write-up on the privacy implications of digital signs. According to Geiger, digital Signs are "are just flat screens displayed in some trafficked area, playing a video loop. The contents of the video are often controlled via computer, enabling one master location to control thousands of connected units." Geiger also notes that the digital signage industry is currently pursuing aggressive measure to track consumers. Specifically, Geiger writes that
Digital signage companies are tracking consumers in a number of ways. The most common method may be itsy-bitsy cameras hidden in the signs that record the age, race, and gender of passersby. Other companies use Bluetooth or radio frequency identification (RFID) tags. Some are also using consumers’ mobile phones to trigger ads; the signage system can then deliver coupons to the phones. All of these technologies have the potential to identify individual consumers and gather personal data about them, without giving consumers any choice in the matter.
Discussion for class:
  • What, if any, are the privacy issues with how the digital signage industry is using facial recognition cameras and other technologies that can identify consumers?
  • What privacy protections or policies can the digital signage implement to mitigate any concerns about how it is using technology to improve its efficiency?

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