Facial recognition: the new rules

Privacy concerns increasingly trump convenience with biometric technology

As brands increasingly realise facial recognition’s potential, it seems consumers aren’t yet quite ready for a mass roll-out. Approximately 60% of US consumers think that brands and companies storing images of their faces is creepy, according to a report from SONAR™, Wunderman Thompson’s proprietary research tool.

A marked shift in how regulators think about facial recognition technology is expected in 2020, especially when it comes to protecting people’s data and privacy. Brands will see more rules governing how and when data can be used. Brittany Kaiser, a data transparency advocate and former business development director for Cambridge Analytica, tells Wunderman Thompson Intelligence that the rights to data garnered from tech like facial recognition could potentially apply in the same way as property rights.

“The idea is, in the future, that we’d have a lot more access and transparency into who wants what type of data,” Kaiser says. “Then we would have the choice to produce or share that data with all of those organisations, be it for profit or non-profit, or governmental, or anyone interested in using those data sets.”

There’s one exception to all this: China. “At the end of the day, the privacy concerns around biometrics in China are very different from the United States,” John Artman, editor in chief of TechNode, tells us. “In the United States, facial recognition is seen as kind of something Orwellian – 1984-ish, Big Brother is watching you – whereas in China, it’s just like ‘Hey, I can use my face – alright, why not?’”

Why it’s interesting:

Facial recognition provides countless opportunities for brands to collect data on customers to improve and hyperpersonalise their shopping experience; it also offers unprecedented convenience. However, companies will need to be transparent about how they plan to use the data in order to retain the trust of customers and lawmakers. “If people don’t want to be bothered, then they’ll tell you that and you can stop wasting your advertising spend on them,” Kaiser says. “In the end, it actually improves the business model because you’re cutting out people who don’t want to be advertised to. You’re going to get real, updated information in order to target a better experience to the customers who do want to interact with you.”

Read more from Wunderman Thompson Intelligence's The Future 100: 2020 annual forecast

Wunderman Thompson Intelligence

published on

27 January 2020


Experience Technology & innovation

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