The ad agency Redpepper is causing a stir with a new app that uses facial recognition software to identify Facebook users when they enter retail stores, and then sends them ads based on their Facebook “likes.”
The agency has already tested the app in its hometown of Nashville, Tenn. and plans to soon roll out trials to other areas of the country. For now, the app is called Facedeals, but Redpepper -- which isn't affiliated with Facebook -- will change the app's name before expanding the trials.
Redpepper boasts that the app will benefit businesses by making check-ins easier, and help consumers by sending them coupons to their smartphones. Before releasing the app, Redpepper examined practices of local businesses and was only able to find six companies -- one of which was a strip club -- that used check-ins.
"We set out to evolve the check-in and sweeten the deal, making both irresistible," the company says. "For businesses, there is no easier way to deliver customized deals. Users receive personalized offers simply by coming through the door."
But whether Redpepper will be able to overcome the privacy concerns raised by this "Minority Report" type of technology, remains to be seen.
On one hand, the app requires users' opt-in consent -- a feature that could stem some privacy fears. At the same time, there's also an obvious danger in making check-ins too passive: Even if people opt-in once, they could forget that they're broadcasting their location simply by showing up.
Still, the app seems more privacy-friendly than some other technology tested in retail environments. Consider, last year, shortly before Black Friday, two malls announced plans to track shoppers' physical locations via their mobile phones. The Promenade Temecula in California and Short Pump Town Center in Virginia posted small signs notifying shoppers about this plan, and informing them that they only way to opt out was to turn off their cell phones. While the malls intended to track people until the end of the year, once news of the initiative got out, a backlash forced the shopping centers to retreat.