In the 2002 movie Minority Report, Tom Cruise's character John Anderton is seen walking through a busy thoroughfare. He is surrounded by interactive billboard ads that can identify him and serve personalised messages ("John Anderton! You could use a Guinness right about now."). He then enters a Gap store and is greeted by a virtual assistant with knowledge of his previous purchases.
Fifteen years on, the technology depicted in this dystopian vision is almost a reality. Retailers have been investing in facial recognition, partly as a means of tackling shoplifting, but also with the intention of improving the shopping experience. As far back as 2011, brand owners such as Kraft and Adidas were considering making use of Intel's facial recognition software in a bid to provide consumers with more targeted information in stores.