LONDON: The launch of the iPhoneX has brought facial recognition nearer the mainstream, a development which is likely to open up new avenues for advertisers while increasing the concerns of privacy campaigners, according to a new WARC report.

The WARC Trend Snapshot: Facial Recognition piece outlines how the technology has come of age, moving from a limited ability to ascertain generic information such as age and gender to not only identifying individuals but also understanding what kind of mood they are in.

The public, however, has not grasped the speed at which these developments have taken place – and may not always appreciate the distinction between facial recognition and facial tracking.

In a WARC survey of UK consumers, carried out by Toluna, two thirds said they were comfortable with the idea of facial recognition, but a similar proportion didn’t know the technology can measure mood.

Paul Twite, managing director Europe and MENA at Toluna, suggests brands use testing tools to gauge consumer sentiment ahead of a wider roll-out.

“Understandably, respondents felt more comfortable with the technology being used for security and monitoring rather than for marketing or advertising purposes,” he notes.

But marketers will surely be exploring how they can exploit new opportunities to reach consumers using a combination of facial recognition, mobile and OOH, for example, or developing new tactics such as augmented advertising.

Apple has said that Face ID data will remain on the iPhone device rather than being stored centrally and exploited for services such as ad attention tracking, but Ben Plomion, chief marketing officer at artificial intelligence company GumGum, argues that there will be huge demand from advertisers to use the visual data, not least as consumers use their iPhones to access apps that require authentication.

“This means there is a direct connection between someone’s face and their presence in these apps,” he says. “We can imagine a scenario in which an ad for a vacation to Costa Rica would replace the typical models with images of the iPhone user on the beach.”

In this fast-developing world, marketers will have to tread carefully, according to Ann Cavoukian, Distinguished Expert-in-Residence at the Privacy by Design Centre of Excellence, who stressed to WARC that “you need the highest level of privacy protection possible” when it comes to biometrics.

“It has to be the individual’s choice to make this [data] available,” she says. “If I was a marketer, I would go out of my way to seek that positive consent, let your customers know how it will benefit them.”

Sourced from WARC