Eating pizza and being scrutinized by facial recognition software is not something one would often expect to hear in the same sentence. One particular pizza shop in Oslo decided it would be interesting to see how people respond to their ads and whether or not people who see them are actively smiling. This turned out to be quite a PR nightmare for the company, as the logs have now been spilled.
Facial Recognition Pizza Store Disaster
It is very disturbing to learn a shopping app developed by an Oslo-bad pizza store was actively using facial recognition to monitor customers’ behavior. When users were browsing the app, the software would determine how long people kept looking at the information. Moreover, the software would check for any hint of a smile on that person’s face, and record how long they kept smiling while keeping the app open.
This information all came to light due to a crashed advertisement revealing the source code of the facial recognition system. It appears the chain in question goes by the name of Peppe’s Pizza, although the translation is a bit fuzzy on that front. Moreover, the source code shows a log of all the store’s guests, and their descriptions. We are not talking about descriptions as in “what they ordered”, but rather a sin their facial expressions and overall behavior.
To make matters worse, this screen would normally only broadcast advertisements for shop products. However, one Reddit user stumbled upon the app crashing and promptly shared an image of it online. More intriguingly, once the Reddit user approached the screen displaying the code, it seemingly started identifying him and providing details of him to the facial recognition system. From a privacy point of view, this is the last thing anyone hopes to experience.
It is incredibly troubling to look at any ad sign while walking down the street and having to ponder whether or not it could be collecting identifying information. It is not unlikely some facial recognition software is found all over the world, although no other incidents of this kind have been recorded as of today. The fact the user doesn’t even need to interact with the object to have this information recorded is a clear invasion of privacy.
While most people will shrug this off as a clever – yet annoying – marketing trick, it is unclear how this information is used exactly. While the pizza chain may only record these details for their own reasons, there is the question of whether or not they resell the information to third parties. It does not appear that is the case here, yet it is still a very real possibility when other companies start employing similar methods in the future.
All of this goes to show mass surveillance is a much larger threat than most people give it credit for. Every digital billboard one comes across could be actively monitoring your behavior and facial structure. Although this incident came to light due to a bug – and was shrugged off by most people rather quickly – it wouldn’t be surprising if more of these facial recognition “tricks” come to light over the coming years.
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