New Hope Network is part of the Informa Markets Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Facial recognition software in grocery stores: cool or creepy?

It's been a long day; you're not sure what you'd like for dinner—maybe an already roasted chicken or deli salad from your local grocery store? On your way to grab something quick, you see a kiosk labeled, "Meal Planning Solutions." You decide to investigate. As you approach, a video analytics device scans your face to determine your gender: female, and age: 35. Using that information, and the time of day: 5:30 p.m., the screen suggests easy dinner options. Perhaps you also have children? You're informed of products that are kid friendly and don't take long to prepare. Low-calorie, high-protein options pop up if you're trying to watch your weight.

Do you A: Walk away from the kiosk confused and slightly disgusted. This all feels a little too "Big Brotherish." Or, do you B: Throw some of the suggested products in your cart--perhaps, things you hadn't even thought to try before--and appreciate the additional service your retailer is now providing?

Soon you'll have an opportunity to decide for yourself. Kraft unveiled such a kiosk at the National Retail Federation show this January and plans to test drive the device in as many as three major supermarket retailers later this year.  Here's how the thing works: When a shopper approaches the stand, special  technology zooms in on the person's face to determine—with shocking accuracy—their gender and age group. The information is used for marketing Kraft products available in the store.  

I don't know about you, but this kind of technology really freaks me out. I'm reminded of the movie Minority Report, where billboards individually marketed products to passersby after scanning them for personal information.  Is this where we're headed? It certainly sounds like it.

What's to stop facial recognition software from profiling me based on race or weight? What's more, could such devices make it to the checkout counter? Information on my purchases could be stored and sold to any manufacturer or company. No thank you.

I’m not trying to suggest we hold back the reigns of progress here, but what's to stop us from getting trampled?

Hide comments


  • Allowed HTML tags: <em> <strong> <blockquote> <br> <p>

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.