Exec Offers Guidelines for Exploring Facial Recognition

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Exec Offers Guidelines for Exploring Facial Recognition

By Suzy Frisch - 12/21/2018
Advantage Solutions’ Lori Stillman talks facial recognition at the Path to Purchase Expo.

Minneapolis — Facial recognition technology has already been a powerful tool for security and health care, and it’s on the cusp of making a big splash in consumer marketing. By 2022, facial recognition technology will generate nearly $10 billion in revenue – a 21% increase over today – according to Lori Stillman, executive vice president of insights and analytics at Advantage Solutions.

Retailers and brands will have numerous applications for facial technology, from learning more about their customers to making their lives easier by eliminating the need for passwords or credit cards. Stillman, presenting at the Path to Purchase Expo in October, noted that facial recognition is starting to permeate every area of business.

“Facial technology really has lots of areas from a customer marketing standpoint that you can lean into,” she said. That could include “customer activity analysis, just knowing who is walking by our display – are they standing there or engaging with the product or just walking by? – their demographic attributes. It’s super important.”

Some brands and retailers have started integrating facial technology in their operations. For example, Walmart deploys it to understand their customers’ experiences during checkout, using security cameras to track emotions of sadness, happiness or frustration. Then it pairs those readings with data about the cashiers working that day to uncover training opportunities or ways to streamline the checkout process.

Some brands use facial recognition kiosks to interact with customers, offering unique experiences or taking and emailing photos that then capture dozens of data points about them, Stillman said.

Or take CaliBurger, which melds facial recognition with its loyalty program. Its kiosks allow customers to place orders faster and pay without credit card by using two-factor authentication. The restaurant then collects analytics like age and gender, which it passes onto its marketing department to make smart decisions.

There are endless opportunities. Stillman urged companies to follow seven guidelines before diving into facial technology.

1. Safeguard biometrics. Make sure to institute stringent requirements for protecting biometric data from people’s faces, fingerprints and more. The damage people can do with such stolen facial data is astronomical.

2. Catch and release data. Don’t hold on to customers’ biometric data any longer than necessary. It’s important to constantly manage this data set and release it when people are no longer customers.

3. The world is not your oyster. There are places where it’s completely inappropriate to use facial technology, such as bathrooms, locker rooms, health care facilities and spots where children play. Be respectful of privacy and refrain from capturing data about people in the wrong place.

4. Inform the consumer. Let people know as they enter a building that facial recognition is underway. Some companies have gotten in trouble for collecting data without telling customers first.

5. Give options for opting out. Not everyone wants to participate in this new technology. So make it easy for people to turn off a brand or store’s ability to engage in facial recognition.

6. Single use only. Require express consent to use customers’ biometric data for something other than its original purpose. Inform customers that the use is changing and give them the opportunity to decline the new application.

7. Don’t recognize the stranger. If you have facial recognition data on customers, don’t use it to identify them in places where they haven’t given permission, like a bar or restaurant.

Facial technology systems and software are evolving rapidly, so it can be hard to keep up. Track trends by watching what leaders in the space are doing, Stillman advised. Consider Clear, NEC, FaceFirst, and Amazon, which soon could use facial technology to prevent the wrong people from opening packages. Said Stillman: “I’m a big believer that the next frontier is facial recognition.”