POPAI injects voice of reason into audience research and privacy issue

February 9, 2010 by Dave Haynes

POPAI released a report today that adds some calm, measured thoughts and recommendations around the issue of technology that can count and potentially track people as they shop or go about their day in public, particularly as it relates to biometrics-based audience counting software and cameras.

Called Best Practices: Recommended Code of Conduct for Consumer Tracking Research, the report is the result of a lot of work put in by Wirespring’s Bill Gerba and other volunteer members of POPAI’a digital signage advocacy group, as well as the larger community. That led to deeper work, draft guidelines, and reviews that went to the POPAI board and government in the US. The end result was a set of guidelines now released.

Says Gerba:  In general, we tried to focus on the four or five things most likely to get you in trouble with your local, state or federal government, your customers, or both. If you are planning to collect, store, process or use any kind of surveillance-like data gathering ..

Bill has a post up on his always excellent blog about the history of the research and guidelines, and his point of view.

My personal feeling is little that is being done by audience tracking vendors or retailers would elicit more than a shrug from shoppers, unless they were being wound up and poked at by reporters looking to generate some alarm or manufactured indignity. However, I thoroughly agree guidelines make sense and the industry owes Gerba and the others who put the work in their considerable gratitude.

It is refreshing to see something clear, measured and free of the ludicrous, loaded reports like that of the World Privacy Forum, which manage to equate using Tru-Media or CognoVision to count shoppers and viewers as a privacy Chernobyl.

If you want to really talk about privacy, you ought to be thinking and fretting much more about what you search for every day on Google and what you are doing when you are out and about with your smart phone and checking in with geo-location services. That stuff isn’t generally tracking people. It’s tracking you, and the stuff does get stored.

Not my area of knowledge, but my guess is that there’s a lot more there to fret about than cameras that count how many faces look at screens in shops, and for how long. But it’s a much easier thing to fret about than the massive complexities of what’s happening with Web technologies.

Leave a comment