DSF releases recommendations on privacy and transparency standards

February 4, 2011 by Dave Haynes

This <Company Name> digital sign uses a camera to estimate your age and gender in order to make advertisements more relevant to you. No images or identifying information about you is collected or stored. For more information, please visit www.companyname.com/privacy or see the store manager.

How would you feel about being obligated to run that message in your programming schedule, regularly, if you use use video face counting technology to get a grip on how many people are watching your digital screens in a retail or public setting?

My guess is that more than a few network operators will say that’s a solution looking for a problem, and that it will stir up a consumer debate that will be more alarmist than rational. But there are others who will say the way to kill what could easily be a Hot Button issue is to get ahead of it through self-policing and standards.

Transparency and notice are probably going to be the most hotly-debated issues that come out of the Digital Signage Federation‘s deep, very well reasoned recommendations for standards on privacy, as it relates to technology that is increasingly used to engage with and both count and track consumers. The standards have just been released by the DSF, and face counting is just one issue that gets covered off.

Here’s the preamble:

Interactivity and consumer engagement are poised to be key drivers of growth for the digital signage industry. Through technologies and platforms like mobile marketing, social networking, facial recognition and radio frequency identification, digital signage companies can personalize message content, build customer relationships, streamline network management and provide accountability to advertising clients.

However, some companies and consumers are understandably wary of the privacy implications of collecting personal information through these identification and interactivity technologies.

The Digital Signage Federation (DSF) believes the time is right for an industry-wide commitment to strong privacy and transparency standards. Such standards can help preserve public trust in digital signage and set the stage for a new era of consumer-friendly interactive marketing.

Incorporating privacy into digital signage business models and data management practices is the best way to prevent privacy risks before they arise. It will likely be less expensive for digital signage companies to integrate privacy controls now, while identification technologies are still relatively new to the industry, than it will be to retrofit privacy protections onto future systems. How digital signage companies handle the privacy issues they face today will affect the way the public, regulators and advertiser clients perceive the industry – as well as the industry’s direction in the future.

The following are voluntary privacy guidelines recommended by DSF for digital signage companies, their partners and the venues that host these systems. The issues discussed in these guidelines are related to data collection and use through digital signage – these guidelines do not seek to address the many other methods of collecting consumer information.

The DSF Digital Signage Privacy Standards are a living document and should be updated as technology and business practices evolve. Although DSF endorses these guidelines, DSF does not endorse specific companies, products, or services that use these guidelines. The DSF Digital Signage Privacy Standards do not replace legal obligations, and companies should always make certain that they are in compliance with the law at all times.

You can read the document here …

It would take a while to break this down well – and my guess is some DSF people will do that — but the nut of it is categorizing the privacy issue into three methods of collection:

1 – Directly identifiable data – like your name and address

2 – Pseudonymous data – logins, etc

3 – Aggregate data – like face counting systems

The recommendations on standards adapt internationally-recognized and accepted principles on fair information, specifically:

This is really clearly something that was not whacked together over the last weekend. There’s a lot of thought here as well as a clear effort to align with broader technology issues around privacy. Ken Goldberg of Real Digital Media led the effort and had a big hand from Harley Geiger, the Policy Counsel at the Center for Democracy & Technology. Geiger has written off about privacy issues as they relate to this sector, and is always even-handed and logical – as opposed to some of the alarmist types who consider audience measurement people the spawn of Satan.

It’s also clearly stated that these standards are voluntary, and part of a living document that will get tweaked and evolved. Which of course means there is room for debate and evolution.

Hopefully, some of the people who put it together will have more to say. I’d certainly welcome a guest post.

Leave a comment