Monday, November 05, 2012
The connected world we live in has established a new deal when it comes to our privacy – when it comes to the boundaries of the public and private spaces – and, for the most part, we’re living with it.

Everyone understands, for example, that Facebook is worth billions for one reason: because it is a vast engine for the creation of data about our lifestyles, preferences and relationships, and advertisers are paying to access that data. Every now and then Facebook endures a rough week or two over a change in privacy policy, but people (now one billion of them) keep using it. It turns out that we’re happy to share a lot of information about ourselves online. Especially if it means we get a product or service that we like for free.

Now, the coming together of Big Data and new technologies in face recognition are set to push the privacy argument a step further and into the real, offline world. How would you feel about a world that can identify you, tap data on your likes and dislikes and adjust itself accordingly?

Earlier this year, the US advertising agency Redpepper ( caused controversy when it pointed the ways towards this new world with its Facedeals scheme. Currently in beta testing, Facedeals works by setting up special face-recognition cameras in restaurants and shops. These cameras then see consumers who walk on to the premises, analyse their face and match it, where possible, with a Facebook profile. The consumer can then be offered special deals based on data about their preferences and past behaviour. Walk into a coffee shop and the barista might say: “Oh hi, Jane. I hear you like caramel lattes. How about one half-price?”