back to article Big Beardie's watching: Alan Sugar robots spy on Tesco petrol queue

A division of Lord Alan Sugar's firm has launched a surveillance campaign which will see shoppers' faces scanned at hundreds of Tesco petrol stations. Amscreen, one of Lord Sugar's firms, has installed the OptimEyes advertising system in 450 Tesco filling stations around the nation. These devices contain facial recog …


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  1. WonkoTheSane
    Big Brother

    Easy to avoid...

    From what I've read elsewhere, these are installed inside the shop, targeting people queueing to pay.

    All the Tesco garages I've visited have "Pay@Pump" at _every_ pump. Why go into the shop?

    If you absolutely have to enter the shop, the webcam controlling this seems like the perfect place to park that used gum.

    Besides, the Asda next door is usually a few pence cheaper anyway.

    1. P. Lee Silver badge

      Re: Easy to avoid...

      Cue ads at the pump.

      Also, less "Minority Report" and more "Black Mirror."

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Easy to avoid...

      Everyone just need to get a cardboard cutout of Lord Sugar's mug on a stick and walk into the petrol station carrying it out towards the camera.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Much more fun NOT to..

      AFAIK, under UK law they will have to provide you with a copy of the data they hold on you (a Data Subject Access Request). That is fully legal, but the £10 doesn't half cover he costs of retrieving your info.

      All it takes is about 100 people per shop filing a request to see their data to make this a problem for TESCO. You may not be a pain on your own, but collectively you sure will be. What was it again? Every little helps?


      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Much more fun NOT to..

        AFAIK, under UK law they will have to provide you with a copy of the data they hold on you (a Data Subject Access Request)."

        It doesn't hold or retain data. It's not even facial recognition as we normally understand it. It just looks at a face and makes an "educated" guess at age and sex so as to make an attempt to play a video ad that you're more likely (in their opinion) to watch.

        The only data it retains is it's guess at your age and sex (it already knows your location) and which ad it played/was playing at the time.

        The idea is not to specifically get you to buy something. The idea is to prove to the advertisers that the advert is properly targeted so as to charge more for the advertising slot.

        1. GT66

          Re: Much more fun NOT to..

          Uh... how would the company prove to the advertisers that its identification of age and sex were accurate unless they had copies of facial pics as well? For the company to make any claim of accuracy, it will have to back up that claim with data to demonstrate accuracy. Otherwise, the "proof" is no proof at all.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Balaclava anyone?

    Or army-style face paint?

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: Balaclava anyone?

      No, not army style face paint. Actor style... Just make yourself up to look 40 years older, or optionally like a zombie, and enjoy all those creepy adverts for sweets and funeral plans.

      What adverts do zombies watch?

      1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

        Re: Balaclava anyone?

        Sad replying to myself I know, but the idea popped into my head because of yesterday's article, and I can't help it:

        What adverts do zombies watch?

        Braaaaaaaain's Faggots.

        1. tony2heads

          Re: Balaclava anyone?

          Also Brain's beer (around Cardiff)

          Note to self -must buy a Guy Fawkes mask today

      2. 080

        Re: Balaclava anyone?

        What adverts do zombies watch?

        All of them, that's how they get to be Zombies

    2. The BigYin

      Re: Balaclava anyone?

      Not camo paint, ut this stuff:

      1. AchimR

        Re: Balaclava anyone?

        Balaclava under motorcycle helmet if they insist on taking the helmet off, though usually they don't insist on it. Wonder what ads they will play for me standing there with a bike helmet on...

        That said I avoid supermarket petrol stations anyway, don't like their crappy fuel.

        1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge

          Re: Balaclava anyone?

          Yeah, I can see it now In an area with lots of muslim women wearing burka's.

          The first advert that comes up for sun-tan lotion is gonna cause a shit-storm!

        2. Elmer Phud

          Re: Balaclava anyone?

          " Wonder what ads they will play for me standing there with a bike helmet on..."

          Oh, any old Top Gear related tat, I reckon.

  3. King Jack

    It's just a ploy to encourage shopping from home.

    1. Alan 6 Bronze badge

      "It's just a ploy to encourage shopping from home."

      So Tesco Direct now sell petrol...

      1. Paw Bokenfohr

        Re: "It's just a ploy to encourage shopping from home."

        I think he meant that if you shopped from home you wouldn't need to be at the petrol pump.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Race to the bottom

    This must sure make Tesco a shoe-in for the "Making public space a bit less pleasant" gong at the "Irritating marketer of the year" awards.

    The 'Minority Report' bit is both wrong and apt at the same time; the idea (and the ads no doubt) is nowhere near as entertaining or thought through as the book/film, but it's equally and misguided and Orwellian as 'precrime', and likely as flawed. I don't recall feeling thrilled at the vision of advertisings future when watching it, and I can't imagine many others not employed in marketing were either.

    I can only fervently wish Sugar and Tesco's the same fate as the marketing division of the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Race to the bottom

      If you check the Amscreen website, it's not just Tesco using this creepy product.

      1. thondwe

        Re: Race to the bottom

        Looks rather like "Shell" are using them a lot!

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Race to the bottom

      Come the revolution......

      1. monkeyfish

        Re: Race to the bottom

        FFS marketing types, don't you realise this is exactly the sort of crap the general population doesn't want? The sort crap that means I'll pay extra attention to the advert in order to avoid buying those particular products!

        1. keithpeter

          Re: Race to the bottom

          "The sort crap that means I'll pay extra attention to the advert in order to avoid buying those particular products!"

          A data point: about a decade ago, on the Lichfield to Redditch railway line, some bright spark decided to install video screens on the trains that played news clips and adverts. The sound level was idiotically high. The screens were positioned all along the main part of each carriage. There was a token 'quiet' section at the remote end of each carriage which did not have any form of sound insulation between it and the main part of the carriage.

          The initiative lasted about 6 months. Rail staff told me that the level of vandalism targeted specifically on the equipment was the worst they had seen (some of the train staff had worked out how to jam the DVD-ROM players in the steel boxes to prevent worse damage to the kit). The jingles used to advertise the local car insurance (! on a commuter train !) brokers and estate agents still haunt my dreams. I will never buy anything from any of the local advertisers, many who have now gone bankrupt. I remember actually seeing a cafe bar that had been advertised on this system and crossing the road to get away purely by reflex action.

          Marketeers: Just don't do this. Don't force stuff into people's faces when they have to queue or occupy a certain space for a length of time.

          The Tramp: I need a bottle or two of Diamond White of a morning to stop the jingles...

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Risky in this PC world

    I wonder how long before the hordes of sensitive individuals feel so mortally hurt by their age/gender being publicly mis-classified that they decide to sue en masse? Tesco certainly won't want PC Chapman buying petrol from one of their stations.

  6. MJI Silver badge

    Typical Tescos

    I actually avoided using Tescos for over a year a few years ago despite living near one. I refused to go in, and I let them know why.

    They had stupid irritating TVs on all the aisles, staff hated them as well.

    I think the slight drop in visitors helped rip them out.

    Then their stupid trolleys with handles full of adverts. It is possible to snap them off!

    Definately the best was to avoid the place.

    Now to their petrol. Nasty stuff, my car runs like a pig on it, yet is fine on BP, Shell or Esso.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    This of course complies with all the necessary consents and legislation:

    Quoted from a well-informed comment at the Guardian:

    "What I don't understand is how this can possibly be in accordance with the data protection principles - its obvious that in order to use this technology the system must process your individual data... therefore...(DP principles in bold)

    The individual who the personal data is about has to consent to the processing.

    Unless Tesco installs a process whereby I can consent to the facial recognition technique I fail to see how this can happen

    The processing is necessary:

    - in relation to a contract which the individual has entered into; or

    - because the individual has asked for something to be done so they can enter into a contract. Buying petrol from a Tesco store surely does not include the right for Tescos to gather information about me in order to process that information.

    The processing is necessary because of a legal obligation that applies to you (except an obligation imposed by a contract). No contract I can see.

    The processing is necessary to protect the individual’s “vital interests”. This condition only applies in cases of life or death, such as where an individual’s medical history is disclosed to a hospital’s A&E department treating them after a serious road accident - Surely not applicable

    The processing is necessary for administering justice, or for exercising statutory, governmental, or other public functions.

    Well even Tesco cant claim this status

    The processing must also be in accordance with the “legitimate interests” condition.

    The first legitimate interest requirement is that you must need to process the information for the purposes of your legitimate interests or for those of a third party to whom you disclose it.

    What ‘legitimate interest’ can Tesco claim here, apart from it helping their sales?

    The second requirement, once the first has been established, is that these interests must be balanced against the interests of the individual(s) concerned. The “legitimate interests” condition will not be met if the processing is unwarranted because of its prejudicial effect on the rights and freedoms, or legitimate interests, of the individual. Your legitimate interests do not need to be in harmony with those of the individual for the condition to be met. However, where there is a serious mismatch between competing interests, the individual’s legitimate interests will come first.

    I regard my right not to have information about myself processed in this way, simply because it may help Tescos sell more of its products.

    Finally, the processing of information under the legitimate interests condition must be fair and lawful and must comply with all the data protection principles. Which plainly it does not.`

    But will we see the Data Protection Commissioner step in and say to Tescos, now look here your proposal breaks most of the DP principles? Sadly like other regulatory bodies they will probably act like toothless fairies."

    1. frank ly

      Re: This of course complies with all the necessary consents and legislation:

      I think it's tawdry and tacky and yucky, but I don't think it breaches DP requirements because it doesn't store any images of the 'target individual' or obtain any personal identifiable data. I may be wrong on that point, so please respond if I am. Even if I am wrong, what harm can it do to me if a machine makes a one-off decision that I'm male and over 50, then decides to show me a Viagra advert?

      They could have hired a person to sit and look at their customers and then make a decision about what sex they were and what age range, but it's cheaper, overall, to develop this machinery.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: This of course complies with all the necessary consents and legislation:

        " think it's tawdry and tacky and yucky, but I don't think it breaches DP requirements because it doesn't store any images of the 'target individual' or obtain any personal identifiable data."

        If they don't store any images then how do they work out what they want to sell you.

        Obviously, they would tie up your image with your ClubCard after you have made a purchase and next time they will already have your image cross referenced to your personal details all recorded on their ClubCard DB.

        Who knows where the data for facial recognition will end up?

        1. Alan 6 Bronze badge

          Re: This of course complies with all the necessary consents and legislation:

          The image isn't stored for longer than it takes the software (which I think is a part of Verint's Retail Intelligence package) to decide your gender & age.

          This is just another reason to avoid Tesco, I drive past a couple of them to get to Asda, who somehow manage to keep their prices lower without the need to sell my purchasing habits to anyone who wants them...

    2. Tom Wood

      Re: This of course complies with all the necessary consents and legislation:

      Well they and everyone else already record you by CCTV "for the purposes of crime prevention and public safety". Unlike CCTV, these screens won't actually record your image, just use it to determine whether you are a {young/middle-aged/old}{man/woman}. Whether you are a "young man" or an "old woman" is hardly personal data...

      1. MrXavia

        Re: This of course complies with all the necessary consents and legislation:

        I have no problem with CCTV, since there are specific guidelines to businesses for CCTV, and it is there for crime prevention, people are less likely to rob a place if there is CCTV...

        but processing my image for advertising? that is not on.....

        1. 080

          Re: This of course complies with all the necessary consents and legislation:

          people are less likely to rob a place if there is CCTV...

          People are less likely to shop at a place if there is face recognition advertising...

    3. cwh

      Re: This of course complies with all the necessary consents and legislation:

      "The individual who the personal data is about has to consent to the processing" - a small sign at the entrance will cover this. By entering the store/petrol station you are agreeing to thier terms.

      1. Phil.T.Tipp

        Re: This of course complies with all the necessary consents and legislation:

        Rubbish - that's not even close to Implied Terms - which is the only unspoken contract type - walking into a business premises does not imply contract nor consent.

        The contract is everything. No contract, no consent, simple as that. Three conditions in order to make a contract:

        1. An offer made

        2. Acceptance of the offer

        3. Consideration - each side must give something

        In order for a contract to exist, at minimum, four conditions must be met:

        1. Both parties intended to make the contract.

        2. Both parties agree about what is in the contract.

        3. The contract is legal. Contracts to buy or sell anything illegal are not enforceable.

        4. The contract must be made by people who are legally capable. This is called ‘capacity’. (Read minors and those of unsound mind.)


        "There will be no binding contract without the real consent of the parties. Apparent consent may be vitiated because of mistake, fraud, innocent misrepresentation, duress, or undue influence, all of which are defenses to the enforcement of the contract."

      2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: This of course complies with all the necessary consents and legislation:

        a small sign at the entrance will cover this. By entering the store/petrol station you are agreeing to thier terms."

        Actually no, it won't do. If any consent is needed (and I don't think it is in this case), a mucking big sign visible to the car driver before/as they enter the forecourt would be required. Unless you plan on filling your tank, walking into the shop to pay and on seeing the "small sign" deciding you don't accept their T&Cs

        That leaves you in a dilemma. Siphon and dump the petrol/diesel on the ground or just drive off?

  8. peter 45

    Tesco, stock your shelves

    I foresee an increase in the sales of......

    Chewing gum

    Spray paint

    Masking tape


    Halloween masks

    1. Nigel Brown

      Re: Tesco, stock your shelves

      Dont forget to put the points on your Clubcard so Tesco know what products to push at you.

      See where your plan to knobble the cameras falls down?

      1. John 110

        Re: Tesco, stock your shelves

        But my Clubcard points gives me money off the very items that I buy anyway. I only wish they would pay more attention to the stuff I buy, so that they would keep it in stock (shortie biscuits, I'm talking to you...).

        Targeted advertising means I don't have to wade through all that info aimed at youf culture to be informed of new breakthroughs in comfy slippers. Hard to see a downside.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
          Big Brother

          Re: Tesco, stock your shelves

          "Targeted advertising... Hard to see a downside."

          At the granular level of targeting that Tescos et al do, it's unlikely that they will advertise something to you that you buy on a regular basis and therefore actually want. It's more likely to be stuff they want to sell you. The same applies to customised special offers. They are not going to give you a discount on stuff they know you are going to buy. All the offers and discounts will be for stuff they want you to buy.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Tesco, stock your shelves

        re: Nigel @10:04

        Or you could do what I do, I put my items on the counter and state "I'd like to pay full price, please." and if they scan a card, I leave without my items and without paying, and don't return.

        1. M Gale

          Re: Tesco, stock your shelves

          and if they scan a card, I leave without my items and without paying, and don't return.

          They are only going to scan a clubcard if you give it to them to scan.

          Me, I've never had my Tesco Clubcard scanned, because I don't have a clubcard. The little bar code on the bottom of the receipt gets given to someone who wants the points. Tesco's database gets just that little bit tainted, someone gets 0.00001p off their next purchase. Win/win, really.

    2. Nuke

      @Peter 45 - Re: Tesco, stock your shelves

      Wrote :- "I foresee an increase in the sales of......Chewing gum...Spray paint....Halloween masks"

      Then they will place you in the young male group. Sorry, there is no escape from this.

  9. Winkypop Silver badge

    "the perfect means for us to enhance the customer shopping experience".


    PR bullshit.

    What they mean is: "the perfect means for us to try and flog more gear to customers".

    So how long till the images are abused?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Big Brother

      Re: "the perfect means for us to enhance the customer shopping experience".


      Indeed. I tried it and it seemed to get very confused with similar faces.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Disney adverts

    "There are a lot of Donald Ducks and Mickey Mouses today"

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Worrying thing is to see what adverts they think should be targetted at you. Remember a few years ago when I started listening to PlanetRock (initially it was during its "being closed" phase so was amazing advert free!) and thought that I might be listening to a channel where I was close to the target demographic .... then for a few weeks they started running ads for an "erectile disfunction" treatment!

  12. Goldmember

    Really, a race?

    "The race is on for retailers to gather as much information about us as possible"

    Tesco has been collecting shitloads of data on customers since the mid 90's with Clubcard. In a recent documentary, a senior exec boasted about how they would know their customers were pregnant before they did, for example, and start targeting them with vouchers for nappies and such. They've been at it for almost 20 years and no other supermarket does it to this degree. This is no race.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Really, a race?

      I really doubt their predictions are that good, they keep trying to sell me products I would never touch by giving me vouchers for them....

      If you see my buying coffee beans, it is pointless trying to sell me instant coffee, it is obvious their systems are not that clever...

      1. Goldmember

        Re: Really, a race?

        "I really doubt their predictions are that good"

        I certainly don't doubt the guy was just bigging up Tesco with that example. But the fact remains that they've been collecting shitloads of data on every clubcard user for almost two decades, and there are infinite uses for that data. Not just predicting and attempting to sway customers in what to buy, but reminding them of things they might not have bought in a while (those vouchers tend to work on me more then the predictions).

        Whether Tesco uses this data to its potential is anyone's guess, though.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Really, a race?

      Who buys nappies 9 months in advance, especially if you don't even know you're pregnant?

      Surely it's better just to wait until a one or two months to go?

    3. MJI Silver badge

      Re: Clubcard

      Actually the vouchers can be pretty silly and not used, but the points are always worthwhile, if there was something I wanted to get but not want Tesco to find out about, just don't use the card, or shop elsewhere.

      Perhaps when they see the alcohol I buy they may think to keep it in stock, yes I do go to small producers (eg Westons) not mass produced syrup based rubbish (eg most big names) and I TRY to buy British.

      When it is 5p off a litre I pass the vouchers off to collegues as I use LPG mainly.

      But remember the shopper controls the club card data.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Well at least Waitrose is different ... far from putting face scanners in petrol stations they appear to be getting rid of our local filling station which is next to them so that they can extend their car park .... and on the other side they appear to be removing a local newsagent + hair salon so that they can replace those 2 shops with storage for "internet shopping".

  14. circusmole
    Thumb Down


    "Simon Sugar, Alan's son and Amscreen CEO, said: "Yes, it’s like something out of Minority Report but this could change the face of British retail."

    Keep taking the pills Simon.

    Change the face of British retail - what a muppet.

  15. knarf

    Motorcycle Helmets

    Ah... all makes sense now as they get take a hissy fit if you walk in wearing a motorcycle helmet; even if you carrying a bank card or cash in your hand to pay for petrol. Even have Tesco staff tell me it was illegal to wear a helmet while paying for petrol. Now I know its really for facial recon and targeted ads I really feel better now.

    Think I can wear the helmet under data protection ?

    1. Nigel Brown

      Re: Motorcycle Helmets

      No, but you could wear a burkha.

      1. Jean Le PHARMACIEN

        Re: Motorcycle Helmets

        D¤mn!!! You beat me to it

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Motorcycle Helmets

      Maybe the burka will become essential wear for all parts of the community.

    3. Spiracle

      Re: Motorcycle Helmets

      No need for helmets/burkhas/tights over the head. All you probably need to do is wear a t-shirt with something like this printed nice and life-sized on the front. Tesco's data will then show a high number of short grey-bearded pensioners visiting the pumps and put the pile ointment/viagra ads on heavy rotation.

      1. MJI Silver badge

        Re: Motorcycle Helmets


        Reminds me I need some Walnuts

      2. Mr Wilks

        Re: Motorcycle Helmets

        ...or it

        What if Mr Sugar popped in for petrol? Would it peddle remaining stock of unsold e-mailers?

    4. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Motorcycle Helmets

      "Think I can wear the helmet under data protection ?"

      I foresee an increase of sales of wide-brimmed hats.

    5. MJI Silver badge

      Re: Motorcycle Helmets

      Funny but when I had a bike many years ago I never had any issues with crash hats. And I filled up many times without taking it off.

    6. Dances With Sheep

      I can beat that....

      > Even have Tesco staff tell me it was illegal to wear a helmet while paying for petrol.

      I walked in to pay for petrol and was asked to remove my crash helmet.

      "Oh, why", I asked quite inocently.

      "Elf in safety" replied the fuckwit.

    7. Nuke

      @knarf - Re: Motorcycle Helmets

      Wrote :- "Tesco staff tell me it was illegal to wear a helmet while paying for petrol. Now I know its really for facial recon and targeted ads. Think I can wear the helmet under data protection ?"

      You cannot escape falling into one advertising category or another. You are up against Russell's Paradox. In this case you will fall into the "Motorcyclist" category (Tesco might not have one now, but I'm thinking ahead to when the "face of retail" is changed). So expect adverts for warm socks, thermal underwear, and accident insurance.

    8. Phil.T.Tipp
      Big Brother

      Re: Motorcycle Helmets

      They get arsey in case you've got a sawn-off up yer jumper. Nevermind the salient fact that your plates have been snapped on the forecourt.

      This is not covered in law. You don't have to remove your lid if you don't want to. If they don't want to take your money - they've failed to establish contract, so you're clear to walk away, get back on the bike and ride away unhindered with your free petrol.

      I revealed this nugget to a red-faced pointy-headed man in a petrol station recently. I was wearing an open-faced lid and sunnies with a stretchy-buff thing tucked in and folded up over my nose and gob to keep the beasties out. He shut up and took the cash.

      Remember your rights people, contract is everything, you have an obligation to yourself to understand the nature of contract law and you have the right to say no whenever you wish. Be free.

      1. M Gale

        Re: Motorcycle Helmets

        +1 for the pointers.

        Open-face though? You brave bastard. There's a pretty infamous picture around of what happens when you hit concrete face-first wearing one of those things. Be very wary of clicking this link. What is seen cannot be unseen.

        (To whoever's moderating this comment section: Call it shock therapy, and please don't zap this post.)

        1. Phil.T.Tipp

          Re: Motorcycle Helmets

          No worries.

          Gave the horror meat pr0n link a miss though. Already seen enough to last a lifetime.

          I left the septic isles and live in the southerly sub-tropics now - just try and get through rush-hour in a full-face lid when it's pegged at 23degC with 80% humidity. Not possible mein freund.

          BP fuel forecourts are the same the world over btw - at least here I can ignore the Stickers for the Stupid at the pump, and sit on the bike to level the tank whilst filling without some red-faced moustache yelling at me across the tannoy.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    BBC carried this yesterday

    Over 500 comments and my guess that 99% were negative.

    I emailed Tesco using the contact us bit of their website. I have closed my clubcard account (only used for Petrol coz it is on my way to work) and will in future only shop there as a place of last resort and with Cash.

    My local one is full of Squaddies and their offspring and frankly only ASDA is a worse place to shop (ASDA also charge you to park).

    I am gradually going more and more off grid. I know where all the ANPR Cameras are locally and avoid them if possible. At least there are no council CCTV Cameras in my area yet.

    I am a person I do not want to be tracked or to have adverts targetted at me.

    Cash rules OK?

  17. Simon Ward

    Time to fire up the meatspace equivalent of AdblockPlus and avoid Te$co ...

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    amscreen map

    If you search on the map for north west instead of using the default all and zooming google maps, 27 of 28 "pins" disappear from the map of my town, good data they have there!

  19. Martin H Watson


    If the cameras are as rubbish as their bar code scanners then they'll probably think I'm Darth Vader.

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: scanners

      In which case, expect to see adverts for death-star thermal exhaust port covers and 'get well soon son' cards. Possibly also moisturising cream ads, both him and the emperor could really have done with some of that...

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Halifax Bank

    Seems like they're a big Amscreen customer too.

  21. CAPS LOCK Silver badge

    Another brilliant product brought to you by...

    ... the House of Amstrad.

  22. TheProf Silver badge

    I like it!

    Going on what TV adverts are like, what are they going to show to that long queue of men? Alcohol? Nope. Cigarettes? Nope. Nuts magazine? No. Razor blades? Yes, Tesco can still sell them to motorists. Well until the 'Radical Mothers' get them banned because children can hurt themselves on the sharp edges.

  23. Lottie

    Semantics of the phrase "facial recognition"

    All the anger and fear seems to come down to the phrase "facial recognition". The beeb were particularly bad at their reporting and le reg not too far behind.

    The facial recognition here seems more akin to that used by digital cameras that recognise a face when in "auto exposure" mode, than the system used to identify a person by recognising their face.

    Recognising the face, not recognising and identifying a person through looking at their face.

    The process seems to be (after reading their spec sheets):

    Camera sees person or persons approaching.

    Camera recognises where their face is supposed to be, software uses a fuzzy logic algorithm with lots of weighting factors (which the beeb dumbed down to "uses length of hair to determine gender") to decide gender and approx age.

    The set of adverts designed for {Gender} and {Age} is shown on a screen. No "Hey, Dave smith!! You need to buy a shoe!!", just generic adverts, but ones that best suit the demographic of the folk heading towards the tills.

    System records "{Advert type} {Gender}, {Age}, {# of faces pointed at screen} during display.

    No other data stored so the system "forgets" what it last saw.


    Bad journalism spins story as "cameras recognise *your* face and advertise directly to *you*. This is big brother!!!eleventyone

    Folk scream, panic and say how bad it is whilst ignoring the multiple CCTV cameras inside and outside the store, the data they give over on their cards, personal info they heamorrage on social media and so on, all of which is full of personally identifiable markers and *is* stored.

    Privacy bods make a big noise about something that *would* be an issue if it were actually happening, which it isn't.

    Plus, it's amstrad. It'll be fucked within a week.

    1. MJI Silver badge

      Re: Semantics of the phrase "facial recognition"

      Talking adverts can sod off.

      I hate the bloody things.

      I even hate those motorised ones which waste electricity with their motors changing the advert.

      As far as I am concerned the whole advertising industry can die.

      We used to have good ones (Hovis ect)

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Semantics of the phrase "facial recognition"

      The point is that actual facial recognition is their obvious endgame - they'll want to be able to bring up your clubcard profile based on your face. The technology is there, I'm sure - just not at Amstrad prices that make any worthwhile business case. This way they can test the market and hopefully see that every hates it before they waste time on anything more expensive.

      This is no better than the mobile-sniffing ad bins in Westminster.

  24. Alan Brown Silver badge

    "Plus, it's amstrad. It'll be fucked within a week."

    Yup, even under the "viglen" brand.

    The issue is the targetting of advertising.

    About 7 years ago an automated billboard which used ANPR to tell passing motorists which oil was best for their car was shut down because it was regarded as a DPA breach (it showed the registration number). It will be interesting to see how this one plays out now it's no longer a submarine ad campaign (halifax etc didn't exactly go out of their way to trumpet its existance in their branches)

    As for methods of blotting out cameras - silly string is easy to clean off (therefore not "criminal damage") and can reach surprisingly high points when sprayed.

    1. Lottie

      Is it still a breach if it doesn't store any data or display any personal identifiers?

      Targeted advertising is a pain in the ass, but the targeting here is merely to age range and gender.

      1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge

        @Lottie the Froggie

        Have you tested the temperature of your water recently?

  25. smartypants

    App Idea for Google Glass:Ad Blocker for your face

    Up till now I've not been impressed with the concept of Google Glass, but I present my killer application, but it requires a small change to the hardware:

    1) Google glass monitors for all this advertising shit in your environment (will work for paper adverts too as well as the more irritating flickering screen types)

    2) It overlays replacement images to block out all those stupid adverts, rendered to either make the signs appear blank, or preferably, not there at all. E.g. on the tube, it would just continue the tiling on either side of the advert so that the wall looks intact.

    3) You walk around in the public realm without your brain fighting a losing battle not to read inane shite.

    It requires that they change the lenses so they're more like ordinary sunglasses or specs. It's no good having my view of these adverts only partially obscured.

    In short, it's an ad-blocker for your face.

    Google, you may send me the cheque in the post!

    1. Mevi

      Re: App Idea for Google Glass:Ad Blocker for your face

      what, like this?

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Time for the "Ugly T-Shirt" ?

    See William Gibson "Zero History".

    Discussed a little, among other things, here <>

  27. phil dude
    Black Helicopters

    3D glasses...?

    Perhaps just wear those cheap dichromic 3D glasses?

    This is a bit creepy no doubt, and I suppose we are just waiting to see how it is misused....


  28. Kubla Cant Silver badge

    I've rarely used a Tesco filling station where you didn't have to queue to pay. Which member of the queue is going to determine the targeted ads? Or will it be an average? Not much point if it is.

    Can we give the system a nervous breakdown by shifting around in the queue so that it has to try to target an old geezer and a teenage woman both at the same time?

  29. GrantB

    They forgot something

    "The OptimEyes does not store images or recognise people..." [yet] is the missing word.

    Hate to admit I have worked in Market Research, but as advertising loses effectiveness (because we are exposed to so much of it every day), there is an arms race to exploit technology to try and target advertising.

    Once the cameras are there and hooked up to an response based advertising system, they will want to track effectiveness. It always comes back to half of the money spent on advertising is wasted, but hard to determine which half. They will want to track things like increase in sales of products like chocolate depending if the customer has been subjected to advertising while waiting vs those not exposed. That in turn leads to demand to associate those 'throw away' facial recognition images with an unique ID which can be tracked, perhaps by credit cards, loyalty cards and things like blue-tooth ID's (I know of one local company analysing customer behaviour by tracking smartphones).

    Can lead to some negative outcomes for consumers - for instance, 'pay-at-the-pump' was largely removed here in NZ, as petrol stations want you to come in and buy stuff while paying. Seems to also be a perverse incentive to force people to wait longer in the station as well - more likely to see advertising and buy more stuff.

    Having worked in the industry, I would assume that people are working on taking the technology now deployed and adding functionality to it - for instance analysing BMI and switch advertising to offer weight-loss programs and/or fast food.

    Funny thing is that when Minority Report came out, most people were appalled by the advertising that recognised individuals and exploited it like 'hey, dave, been a while since you last had a drink of X...', but of course advertising agencies where thinking the complete opposite - like 'mmmh, that is a great idea'.

    Not sure I am that worried yet; a good salesperson will recognise you,offer you the usual and know if you like X, then you might like the new Y that is on special or just released. Not a problem if people do it, but automated scanning systems seem that much more scary.

  30. pyroweasel

    Gender mapping?

    Ozzy wigs and Sinead t-shirts. That'll confuse 'em...

  31. Salts

    This will only get worse

    You can do all of this and more with very cheap hardware, the RPi, can easily be placed at a door and collect wifi & bluetooth data as people come in and with the camera and openCV probably be able to get basic gender & age worked out.

    You do not need to record the personal data, but the MAC address will also give phone manufacturer, then even with so called sanitised data you get some good indicators on demographic, footfall, traffic flow. It is also easy to just set the hardware up as nodes feeding back the data to a nice big database. At 50 - 100 quid a node it's cheaper than CCTV which has always been used in retail for profiling footfall etc. You didn't think CCTV was there to stop shoplifters did you?

    It's all been downhill for quite sometime now.

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