The science fiction status of a future where the ads we see out in the real world individually broadcast based on personal targeting is becoming a reality, and it is coming right out of the country known for protecting individual privacy.
Despite the large amount of advertising inventory, companies struggle to send their message to people who would actually be interested in the product or service they are selling. Sure, we all leave a crumb trail of cookies behind us online, but what about the offline world? German marketing company Echion believes they have the solution to this problem.
Echion tested its solution, which uses cameras to scan consumer faces to pass along targeted ads, in 100 Deutsche Post branches and 40 supermarkets. Discovering a person’s age and gender is a key function of the system.
Rolling out a product like this in a country where citizens are more protective of their privacy than most nations is a risky move. Echion claims that the profile data is only kept in the system long enough to serve up the ad, but privacy groups are speaking out against the platform’s lack of consent.
Notices are said to be posted near the cameras in an effort to be transparent, but it does not offer any way to opt out other than simply leaving the line defeated.
Digital Courage, a leading data protection organization in Germany, has told DW that they are currently working with a legal team to bring a formal complaint against Echion in the courts. Echion is said to be in talks with privacy officials to prove their innocence.