Beware the future, it may be here now. A British non-profit has installed an electronic adverting board that display different ads deepening if the person looking at it is a man or a woman. According to the BBC, the boards use cameras and special software that is able to determine the gender of the person looking at the ad, and displays the appropriate message based on what it finds. The Independent describes it as Orwellian and likens it to the science-fiction seen in the move The Minority Report.
The e-boards are for the “Because I Am a Girl” charitable organization that seeks to promote literacy and women’s rights for women around the world. The ads are there to solicit donations, but are specifically directed at women. When the camera and software determines that the onlooker is a woman, the system shows a video explaining the issues many women face around the world and then finishes by asking for a donation.
Men get nothing but a message directing them to the group’s web site if they desire more information. The idea, says a spokesperson for the group, is to teach women about the issues other less fortunate women face, while at the same time giving men the opportunity to see how it feels to have choices taken away from them.
Thus far the group has put up just one of the boards. It’s in the area where people wait for the subway near a very crowded shopping mall and will only be up initially for two weeks. If things go well, the group plans further trials at other undisclosed venues.
The software guesses a person’s gender by measuring the distance between the eyes, how wide their nose is, the length of their jawline and the shape of their cheekbones, not body shapes as some news outlets have suggested. The software focuses strictly on the head and face to make its guesses, which its creaters say, is more than ninety percent accurate.
According to the BBC, some civil rights groups have already lodged protests, claiming targeted advertising violates a person’s privacy and some have even demanded that the e-board be taken down. Others suggest that such targeted advertising will soon be the norm, and not just on e-boards on the street. Soon, they say, online and television ads will target users more clearly bases on their gender, viewing and buying history, their apparent mood and even what they may be doing at the moment, such as eating.